By Michelle Mann
A first-ever virtual Memorial Day ceremony was held on Fort Rucker Friday, May 22.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions against large group gatherings, the Home of Army Aviation broadcast the remembrance ceremony at the official United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker’s official Facebook site.
USAACE and Fort Rucker Commander Maj. Gen. David Francis hosted the virtual ceremony on the virtually empty field at Veterans Park on post.
“As we stand on this empty field today we are reminded of our Gold Star families and their sacrifice.” Francis said about families who have lost a loved one in military service. “I want all of our Gold Star families to know that although we cannot physically be together today you are never far from our hearts, thoughts and prayers.
“On Memorial Day we remember the connection we feel with all generations that have gone before us who gave all in service to their nation and to each other,” Francis said. “From the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the America Revolution, our soldiers continuously put the welfare of the nation, the Army and their fellow soldiers before their own.
“Memorial Day is a call to remember their lives, their courage, their legacy and their service,” he added. “It is a day when our nation pauses to remember that freedom is not free and how grateful we are for the service and sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard who paid the ultimate price.
“In the Army we consider our greatest asset our people,” Francis said. “Our common commitment to defense and love of country binds us together and unifies us.
“That gets to the heart of what it means to be an American,” Francis said, noting that May marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. “As we mark that milestone and as we pause for our Memorial Day remembrance, we are again reminded of the true cost of war.”
More than 405,000 Americans died during World War II and more than 6,000 of those service members were from Alabama, Francis said, adding that 12 Medal of War recipients from World War II were either born in Alabama or entered the military service there.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to so many members of the Greatest Generation who served and sacrificed their lives on the battle field,” Francis said about the World War II military members. “And the sacrifices that Americans soldiers have made in every conflict. We are inspired by them.
“We endeavor to continue to carry on their legacy of excellence,” he said prior to the ceremonial Laying of the Wreath and playing of Taps.
“Please continue to keep in your thoughts and prayers the many soldiers who are currently deployed around the globe,” Francis said. “God bless Army aviation, our Army and our country.”