Thursday May 31, 2018
The annual Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park brought members of the community together to honor the men and women who gave their lives to serve and protect our nation. The South Burlington Fire Department Honor Guard opened the service as city leaders and staff joined citizens, veterans, and community members Friday, May 25. South Burlington High School’s Chamber Singers performed the National Anthem, followed by an invocation given by Father Skip Baltz, Retired Air National Guard Colonel. Keynote speaker Vermont Air National Guard Col. Michael Chase commemorated the ultimate sacrifice of “those who gave their last full measure of devotion,” and expressed hope for the future of the country through the dedication of the next generation to serve in the military.
Giving meaning to the solemn ritual of lowering the nation’s flags to half-staff, Col. Chase explained that the Memorial Day tradition, originally celebrated as Decoration Day, was established in 1868 to honor those Americans who “gave their last full measure” for our nation, our people, and our freedom. “Our flag will remain at the half-staff position [on Monday] in remembrance of the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service of the flag and the nation it represents,” he said.
Col. Chase said he considered it a great honor to have served the country for the last 26 years. His service includes five deployments to face the nation’s adversaries overseas. Now he faces a different challenge as his son, a college senior, will be commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Armey next spring and their roles will reverse, as Chase remains at home and his son goes forth to protect the nation.
Reflecting on this new generation of young men and women who choose to put service before self, Col. Chase noted a demographic that broadly represents many races and economic classes even while the size of the military shrinks in proportion to the population. He drew parallels to the generations that have gone before these young people who now serve, even though currently less than seven percent of Americans have served in the Armed Forces, and this percentage shrinks everyday as the greatest generation, our World War II generation, leaves us. Acknowledging the characteristics that define the greatest generation, Col. Chase said, “I believe it was devotion to country and service before self, the traits they took with them overseas and brought home with them after the war. The same traits we see in the young men and women who today join our military and choose to serve the same great nation. I believe that joining the military is the greatest honor any young person can achieve and earns them the right to to be counted among the greatest generation or any generation.”
With reference to the final verse of the National Anthem, “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” and a message of hope, Col. Chase closed the ceremony, saying, “I believe we all know that this is an enduring challenge to each of us; for without those we honor today and those brave Americans who will serve our nation in the future, this country will not be free.”