Memorial Day Ceremony

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by Claire Snyder & Justin Friday

The veterans await recognition.
The veterans await recognition.

n Wednesday May 27th, the Rho Kappa Social Studies National Honor Society put on the Memorial Day service during Set. The day started as the veterans walked down the flag-filled sidewalk at the entrance of the school. Greeted by members from Rho Kappa dressed in red, white and blue, the veterans had a breakfast held in Mr. Smaricks room hosted by Ms. Bernard. As the veterans enjoyed their coffee and donuts they were thanked for their service and chatted with some students. The senior class gathered in the auditorium where Josiah Trumbley and Jacqueline Courtney lit the candle at the ceremonial POW and MIA table. Both gave speeches remembering the sacrifices our soldiers gave over-seas, and remembering the reasons we celebrate Memorial Day.

The ceremony started off with Oakdale’s choir singing the Star Spangled Banner, and the auditorium reciting the pledge of allegiance. Jacqueline Courtney received a coin of excellence from Kernel Suarez for her dedication to being a Naval officer, she will be attending Notre Dame for ROTC in the fall. LTC Victor Suarez, the keynote speaker followed with a tribute to fellow commanders, friends, and soldiers who were lost overseas. He told a heartbreaking story about his first commander who was killed during battle overseas, and fellow soldiers from all around came to honor the fallen commander as well. Paul Fer gave a heartwarming speech about the accomplishments of his father, John Fer. Colonial Fer described the POW and MIA table, the table set for one.

During the ceremony each veteran stood honoring their own branch. After the well done ceremony, the students dismissed from the auditorium. A few veterans were kind enough to stay throughout the day and give presentations during some social studies classes. Mary Brockway was a nurse during WW2, one of the few remaining veterans as the years go by. She told us about her times taking care of the wounded while she was stationed in Hawaii, whether they were Allies or Axis she treated them. One of her stories was remembering the times that soldiers would lift each others spirits, when a soldier was able to walk again it would give the others encouragement as well. She was remarkable to talk to, she will be turning 101 in July and claims it is important to be up and moving to stay healthy.

Another pair of veterans were Bob Mount, and Chip Chipley, both were Korean war veterans. Mount was a member of the army and first landed in South Korea, he told a story about how his unit was placed on a boat while stationed in Hawaii unaware of where they were going. He said the commander waited until they were four hours out to sea (too far to jump off the ship) to tell them they were headed to Korea. He talked about the lack of preparedness for the war, how the troops were still in Hawaii style cotton uniforms during a freezing -20 degree winter in North Korea. Mount was in charge of demolition, he searched for landmines and suspicious activity. He was also in a troop paired with a South Korean troop, close to the Yalu river and the Chinese border. When their South Korean partner started to retreat, they decided to as well, they were a day before the rest of the American troops pulled out of North Korea and were attacked by Chinese forces. Overall, Mount’s experiences overseas were something to be remembered.

Chip Chipley is a Korean, Vietnamese, and Cuban blockade veteran. Chipley was in the Navy for 30 years. On his ship in Korea they patrolled the coast and were a part of the Inchon attack near the 38th parallel. Chipley was part of the Hao Minh event where they rescued thousands of American and South Korean troops along with thousands more civilians fleeing the war. Amidst his military career in Korea he had taken part in a fundamental invasion of Inchon, pushing North Korean forces several miles inland. Inchon, being a coastal city, offered an ideal tactical position in any form of defensive or offensive tact that would be needed in the coming months of the war.

He also spoke about his time in the Vietnam war, and his work aboard a hospital ship as a crew member during the war. During this time he became accustomed to the coming and going of wounded soldiers and civilians, and would often be asked to have blood taken. He says that one of the most emotionally rewarding things that happened to him there, was when he was told a patient was able to survive because of the blood he had given. His final story was that of his time aboard a destroyer amidst the Cuban blockade. during this stressful engagement, he said that it really takes first hand experience to understand how close we were to a third world war on that day. He even spoke of a book he had read called “October Fury” by Peter Huchthausen; which contains true accounts of several Russian submarines beneath the American fleets that were armed with nuclear missiles and the discretion to use them.

After the veterans around the school were finished, Rho Kappa hosted a lunch for the remaining veterans. With red, white, and blue table cloth’s, veterans and students shared a lunch together talking about memories, stories, and more. Overall the ceremony was a success, with many happy veterans and knowledge-filled students. This ceremony showed the importance of remembering the soldiers and veterans who have fought overseas, remembering the soldiers that will not be returning. Rho Kappa and the returning veterans will be looking forward to next years Memorial Day.