Select Board Chairman/Retired Army Colonel
By JOE CONNELL
Select Board Chairman
At the core of our military lie unique themes: The selfless desire to serve and the willingness to sacrifice to defend our nation.
The origin of Memorial Day, first observed over 155 years ago and then known as Decoration Day, was to beautify the graves in memory of those who fought and died to preserve our Union during the Civil War. The holiday’s name obviously changed over the years, but its ideals and intention have not.
It’s a day all Americans should take a moment to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Memorial Day is a day for both grief and celebration, reflecting on the tragic loss of life and recounting the courageousness of their service.
Our debt to the heroic men and women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. Because of these sacrifices, the dawn of justice and freedom throughout the world slowly casts its gleam across the horizon.
The respect and admiration we give our fallen pay tribute to their memory and the lives they lived. We do so by visiting their gravesites or placing flags, wreaths or other items at memorials in our communities. But their final resting place should not be the only space we gather, share memories, or sit in quiet contemplation.
To truly honor their lives, we must share their stories with others and ensure their memories live on even though they are gone.
No matter where their battlefield was, in the mountains of Afghanistan, deserts of Iraq or Syria, skies over Europe, islands of the Pacific, the frozen terrain of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam or elsewhere, the stories of the fallen matter and need to be told.
I often receive many text messages on Memorial Day thanking me for my service. I am proud to receive them, but today is about those who did not return to their families. I did. And it’s up to me, and all the living veterans, to talk about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
When someone says that to me, I know when a person is being genuine, with their thankfulness for my service, and when situation is right, I ask if I could tell them about one on my solders who was killed in February 2003 on a Saturday in Iraq. His name was PFC Ernest Sutphin, and he was 21. He was in a Humvee on patrol and took small arms fire and he was seriously wounded. We had only been in Iraq at his point for less than 60 days. I was not with him at the time, but they called me on the radio to let me know. I drove immediately to the medical cache on the airfield. The three other solders in the vehicle from my Battalion were there when I arrived, and they were completely broken down and crying. The doctors could not save Ernest. I knew that at some point my Battalion would face this, either a Killed in Action or a Wounded in Action. I just didn’t know it would happen this soon. I wasn’t ready, and he was the first casualty being from my Battalion and the Brigade. It was completely devastating. In that instant, the battalion was changed forever and not for the better. Everything was about him now. We made sure that he was prepared to be flown out of country as soon as possible. Things were happening so quickly. I really had no time to think, I just had to see Ernest get out of country. Very early the next morning, Sunday, he was flying to Dover, Delaware. It didn’t even hit me until the plane was fading out of site that I couldn’t even call his parents, that how to be done by a Notification officer in person, a parent’s worst nightmare, a unexpected knock on the door. Knowing within 18-24 hours at that point, I knew the parents’ of this only child lives would be ruined forever. The loss of this magnificent young man and soldier, and there was nothing I could do to fix it, nothing. My oath, as a returning veteran, is to keep his memory alive, and the impact he had on my life, and tell everyone I could. It’s my responsibility to talk about Ernest whenever I can for his memory and for his parents and family. He is one of our nation’s treasures and he will never be forgotten. My lifetime commitment I made to him is to remember him every day, is the to be the best father I can, to my children, in honor to him. I always pray to him on Memorial Day that I hope I am living up to that obligation.
By sharing their stories, we keep their memories alive and give others a glimpse of military service that aims to inspire them to create a better world, stronger nation, and kinder communities.
It is up to us to use the gifts secured by those who made the ultimate sacrifice to do as much good as possible and honor a debt that can never be repaid. On Memorial Day, we reflect and share the experiences of our fallen loved ones, but tomorrow and in the days that follow, we must act. Let’s carry their sacrifice with us in our hearts and strive to honor their memory by being good and faithful, hopeful and strong, and committed to building a brighter future for all.
On the piece of land just behind us, on the small common over there, will be the new Lynnfield Veterans Memorial. A tribute to every service member that served from Lynnfield. Currently, there has been 1,030 Veterans that served from Lynnfield. All of the names will be in graved, giving family and friends, the ability to rub (or etch) all veterans. All those who died in combat, will have an asterisk after their names, and to show who was killed in combat. This memorial will be built in 2024.
As I stated before, we have to date 1,030 veterans that have served from Lynnfield to present day. From that, we have had 40 people Killed In Action from Lynnfield.
- Three KIA in the Revolutionary War.
- Seventeen KIA during the Civil War.
- Three KIA during World War I.
- Thirteen KIA from World War II.
- Two KIA from the Korean War.
- And two KIA from the Vietnam War.
It’s up to us, that we tell the stories of those who have fallen in battle. To tell their stories and honor their service and memory by ensuring their families and survivors are cared for and not forgotten.
These individuals have the core tenets that make America great. They fight for each other and fight for a higher cause, and over a million of them never returned. They provide for all of us, the ability, to live in the greatest country in the world. We must keep their memories, and their families, close to all our hearts.
On this stage is a bowl with hundreds of American flag lapel pins. After the ceremony, please come up here, grab one and please wear it for Ernest today to honor him.
Thank you all for attending today’s ceremony, and God Bless the families of our fallen service members, and God Bless America.