Misawa commemorates Memorial Day
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Dog tags glimmered in the sun as they hung from the neck of a rifle rooted in military boots and topped with a hard-shelled helmet.
Flowers were then placed at the base of the battlefield cross as more than 200 past and present service members solemnly stood at the position of attention here during a Memorial Day retreat May 27.
The observance came to a close with the sound of a bugle playing Taps, signifying a Soldier's final farewell.
"Memorial Day honors all the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that left home to never return from a foreign battlefield and ensures their sacrifices are not forgotten," said Master Sgt. James Miller, the 35th Operations Group first sergeant.
Since 1775, more than one million Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Soldiers have given their lives defending their nation.
"Many individuals from this base over the course of its history have died in direct support of combat operations," said Capt. Philip Downing, the 13th Fighter Squadron safety flight commander. "As a military base, we must be aware of all [the men and women] who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This day is a chance to remember the three friends I've lost in the line of duty."
Along with honoring fallen military members, this observance also highlights supporting the family members of those who have died.
"During events like this, I think of the great loss that the service member's family feels," said Downing. "I can't even imagine the pain a family must feel after the loss of a loved one to a war or conflict."
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, first occurred May 30, 1868, and was created to honor service members lost in the Civil War. The tradition, which consisted of adorning the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, has prompted other customs which have continued for more than 140 years.
At Misawa, a Memorial Day retreat ceremony is held annually, but some service members have shown their support on a daily basis by wearing "killed in action" bracelets and stating the names of the deceased during roll call.
"The freedom we enjoy today was bought and paid for with more than a million American lives throughout history," said Downing. "Memorial Day reminds us that the privilege shouldn't be taken for granted."