Memorial Day is a time for us to remember the promise President Abraham Lincoln made to, "Care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan," Retired United States Army Maj. Pat Unger told a large crowd at Bond Memorial Chapel in Mt. Juliet Monday morning.
The rain did not damper the patriotism during the 18th Annual Service that was moved indoors and hosted by Andy and Tracy Bond.
It was fitting Unger was the guest speaker during the service that began with Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick's soulful rendition of "Stand." Unger served in the Army 39 years and was an infantry platoon leader and helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.
"They each have stories to tell," Unger said. "The crosses at Normandy. The markers at Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii. The tombs at Arlington. The fallen heroes who rest in places all around the world."
Unger spoke about Dale Hansen, a 19-year-old from Nebraska who engaged the Japanese in ferocious fighting on the Pacific Inland of Okinawa. At 5-foot 9-inches and 140 pounds, Private Hansen was "far from the biggest Marine in his Reserve unit."
"But he fought like a giant," Unger said. "He landed on Okinawa with his unit on Easter 1954."
Unger talked about how Hansen crawled to an exposed position, where he used a rocket launcher to destroy an enemy pillbox. After Hansen's weapon was destroyed by enemy fire, he seized a rifle and continued a one-man assault and killed four Japanese solder before his rifle jammed.
"He annihilated eight enemy solders," Unger said.
For his heroism, Hansen would later receive his Medal of Honor. However, his parents had to be the recipients because a Japanese sniper killed their son four days after "his amazing display of combat valor."
Unger also told the crowd about Brittany Gordon, a 24-year-old Army Specialist who was among a group who delivered furniture to an intelligence office is eastern Afghanistan in October 2012. She lost her life when a terrorist detonated a suicide vest.
"They, like so many other defenders of freedom, are forever young," Unger said.
"They are real people, with real families, who live in real communities," Unger said. "Mt. Juliet has lost two young men to the Global War on Terrorism."
He talked about Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Cates who was killed in Iraq and Army Spc. Michael Stansbery who was killed in Afghanistan.
"We can best honor their sacrifice by remembering their families who have lost so much," Unger said. "Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the parents of our fallen warriors will still be missing their children... they died way too early."
Unger went on to say freedom is not free.
"It's only possible because our fallen heroes have paid its high price," Unger said.
He told those there while Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, it's not about beaches, picnics or auto races.
"It is a day to remember," he said. "Real people. Real stories, May God bless them all."
During the service the Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 from Mt. Juliet presented the Colors and laid a wreath on the Monument Stone that is engraved with the names of Wilson Countians who lost their lives in service. John Shedd played "Taps" to conclude the emotional service.
Writer Laurie Everett can be contacted at email@example.com.