Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard and communities across the state paused to reflect, honor and remember our nation’s fallen on Memorial Day.
Soldiers and Airmen from the organization supported parades, spoke at Memorial Day services and even sent a military funeral honors team to provide burial honors for a DeForest, Wisconsin, Soldier killed in action in France during World War I.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said it was vitally important for the Wisconsin National Guard to support ceremonies and events that honor the nation’s fallen, but more importantly, for our nation to honor our fallen by continuing to build upon the noble foundation they left for us.
“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our fallen heroes that we can never repay,” he said. “It is up to us, the living, to keep alive the memories of all of our noble service members who gave the last full measure of devotion in service to their country, and it is up to us to ensure we continue to honor them by building this nation into one worthy of their sacrifice.”
Wisconsin National Guard personnel participated in Memorial Day observances in more than a dozen Wisconsin communities, providing Color Guard teams, vehicles, and guest speakers.
In Deforest, eight members of the military funeral honors team escorted a caisson with an authentic World War I flag-draped wooden casket repatriating the remains of Pvt. Edward Olson, Deforest’s first Soldier killed in action in World War I. The casket was hand-built by a Wisconsin National Guard Soldier. Olson is buried in the American Battle Cemetery in Thiacourt, France along with 4,152 fellow Americans.
"Conducting this sort of memorial ceremony carries a significant amount of educational value for the audience", said Jeffrey Unger, a federal contractor who serves as Wisconsin's Transition Assistance Advisor. "Memorial Day is the one day every citizen has a civic and patriotic duty to pause, remember and reflect on the memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice that has secured and maintains the freedom and liberties we all enjoy every day".
In his own remarks at a Memorial Day observance at the Highground in Neilsville, Wisconsin, Dunbar said that while we mourn the loss of our fallen, their memory, spirit and legacy will always live on thanks to their sacrifice.
“They are alive in our memory as we honor them,” he said. “They are alive in each of us as we pursue the happiness that Jefferson spoke of in the Declaration of Independence. They are alive in each new born child, who receives the charter of our Constitution as a gift from those who have sacrificed.”
Since the nation’s inception, more than 36 million Americans have served in conflict, and more than 1.3 million have given their lives in defense of the nation, its values and its ideals, Dunbar said. Nearly 27,000 Wisconsinites have died in the service of our country, and their families and those left behind will never forget their sacrifices.
It is up to us to ensure that their legacy is preserved for posterity, he said.
“We are all Americans,” Dunbar said. “Our history is freedom’s history and it must be preserved. Each generation must keep the torch of freedom lit and pass it on to the next generation. This is not a cliché – it is not easy. Since the founding of our Republic, each generation has contributed men and women who died to keep that torch burning bright and to pass it forward for all of us.”