Military News

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Service Members Honor the Fallen at Sailors' and Soldiers' Monument


By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Monique K. Hilley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk

NEW YORK (NNS) -- Service members participated in a Memorial Day observance at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park May 28 as part of Fleet Week New York 2012 and the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The observance included performances from the U.S. Coast Guard Band and New York Scottish Pipes and Drums, a wreath-laying ceremony and remarks from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Rear Adm. Daniel A. Neptun, commander, Coast Guard District 1; Capt. Justine Cabulong, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; and Cmdr. Laura Bender, chaplain of Wounded Warrior Regiment.

"Today we pause to reflect on the service and sacrifice of all our great men and women, and honor the memory of those who have passed and those who have given their lives to defend our nation," said Bloomberg. "This holiday I think should remind us of the incredible debt that we owe every American who serves in our armed forces because they have stood where others could not, they have done what others did not, and they have earned not just our respect, but our gratitude and our support as well."

Bloomberg placed the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial wreath at the portal of the monument on behalf of the city of New York. Following the mayor's remarks, Retired Brig. Gen. Thomas Principe, New York Army National Guard announced each of the veterans, heritage and memorial organizations that also placed wreaths at the monument to pay tribute to the sacrifice of those who have served in the armed forces and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom of Americans.

"Today's ceremony and many others across this great land today remind us that their sacrifice was not in vain," said Neptun. "The legacy lives on in those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen standing the watch today for us around the world. Each of them dying tonight could possibly be that one. Regardless of the weather conditions or threat levels, we stand ready to immediately respond when action must be taken."

In eight months of the Revolutionary War, 55 Americans died every month. During the Korean War, there were over 900 Americans dying every month. During 90 months of the Vietnam War, there were over 500 Americans dying every month. During four years of World War II, that number grew to more than 6,600 Americans dying in combat every month.

"Since 1775, over 848,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat," said Neptun. "They were husbands, they were wives, they were mothers, they were fathers, sons and daughters (who) died in combat for their nation, for their service and for their comrades and really for us. Most of them were young, just beginning their lifelong journey into adulthood."

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument stands above the Hudson River in Riverside Park. Although more than 100,000 New Yorkers served in the Civil War, there are no hallowed battlegrounds in Manhattan to speak of their deeds and sacrifice. The Soldiers' and Sailors' monument was created in homage to those who served and gave their lives to protect the Union. The monument is a mile downriver from the General Grant National Memorial and these "sister memorials" have held joint observances for over a century.

The Memorial Day observance at the site is now the city's largest and most solemn. It honors veterans of all wars and continues to pay special homage to New Yorkers who fell in the Civil War.

Held nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city's celebration of the sea services. Fleet Week New York provides an opportunity for its citizens and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. More than 6,000 service men and women from the U.S. and coalition nations will arrive aboard the ships.

This year, Fleet Week New York is one of the signature events around the country commemorating OpSail 2012, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner.

The commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is a salute to all Sailors and Marines who fought gallantly in that conflict, who served in all our nation's conflicts since then, and who are defending freedom around the world today.

Panetta, Dempsey Recall Vietnam Vets’ Valor, Sacrifice


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The Defense Department’s most senior leaders today honored Vietnam War veterans, including their own friends and mentors, in a commemoration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall here they said was long overdue.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and actor Tom Selleck all mentioned friends and mentors whose names are among the 58,282 etched into the black granite panels. They joined President Barack Obama in a ceremony marking the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the war.

The Vietnam War ended in April 1975 when North Vietnamese troops took the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. While the end date is a certainty, it is a mirror of the war and the divisions it caused that Americans still disagree on when U.S. involvement in the country began.

American advisors were dying with their South Vietnamese soldiers in the mid-1950s. But historians – and the Defense Department – are commemorating the 50th anniversary of U.S. involvement in Vietnam now.

“At this hour, and at this hallowed memorial, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War – a war that occupies a central place in the American story,” Panetta said. “Millions of Americans were sent across the Pacific to a little known place to fight in the service of the country they loved.”

Participating in the service was especially moving to Panetta, he said, because he went through ROTC and served in the Army with some of those killed in Vietnam. “No memorial better reflects the pain of the sacrifices that were made (than this one),” he said.

Millions of American served in Vietnam and, at one point, well over 500,000 U.S. service members were deployed there. They returned, Panetta said, to a country that “failed to fully acknowledge their service, their sacrifice and failed to give them the honor they so justly deserved.”

The Vietnam generation “is graying now,” Panetta said. But it is not too late for the commemoration of Vietnam to right the wrongs of the past, he said.

The secretary spoke of his recent participation in a ceremony presenting the Medal of Honor to the widow of Army Spec. 4 Les Sabo. Sabo, a member of the famed 101st Airborne Division, died saving his platoon in 1970. The award recommendation was lost for years before another Screaming Eagle found it and revived the process.

“The story of Les, in many ways, is the story of the Vietnam War: We forgot and now we finally remember,” Panetta said.

Dempsey noted that some people called the war – and the wall – a scar. “But history’s temperance allows us to see success where some only saw failure, to see hope where some only saw loss, and to see valor where some simply refused to look,” he said.

The war’s 50th anniversary gives Americans the opportunity to look, the chairman said.

Dempsey recalled being a 16-year-old in upstate New York and watching Army Capt. John Graham come back from the war, motivating him to want to be a soldier himself. “I remember the day in 1971 when Captain John Graham was buried at West Point,” Dempsey said. “He died during his second tour advising the South Vietnamese Army. His son is now on West Point’s faculty.”

The chairman also spoke of Army Warrant Officer Roy Thomas, a gunship pilot with the 25th Infantry Division. “He died in battle when his son was four months old,” the chairman said. “His son is an Air Force officer on my staff.”

Those men are just two examples that echo thousands more who share a martial bond with their forbearers, Dempsey said.

“Whether they served in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan, whether they returned home or we still await their homecoming, there is no difference in their courage and sense of duty,” he said. “There is no difference when it comes to fear and suffering, on the front line and on the home front. There is no difference in the love and longing of their families.

“And, there is no difference in the wounds that remain both seen and unseen.”

Their example calls for Americans to resolve to “never again allow our veterans and their families to be left alone, left to feel outside, left to fend for themselves,” Dempsey said. “And let us resolve today to not just say ‘welcome home,’ but to truly welcome our troops home with the respect and care that they and their families have earned.”

Mets Host Military Appreciation Day at Citi Field


By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Karen Blankenship, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk

NEW YORK (NNS) -- The New York Mets and the USO hosted the fifth annual Military Appreciation Day on Memorial Day May 28 at Citi Field as part of Fleet Week New York 2012.

Held nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city's celebration of the sea services.

Fleet Week New York provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.

Adm. Tim Alexander, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, who threw the first pitch.

"Today we're at Citi Field and they're throwing a big party for us for Military Appreciation Day here with the Mets," said Alexander.

The game opened with a performance by the USO Liberty Bells, followed by the National Anthem performed by the U.S. Navy Band Northeast.

The Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 15 from Naval Air Station Oceana, homported in Virginia, flew over the field at the end of the Star-Spangled Banner. Several service members and Delayed Entry Program members also recited the Oath of Enlistment before the start of the game.

At the end of the third inning the Mets welcomed veterans by recognizing the veteran of the game.

"Thank you to New York for having us, and thank you to the Mets for giving us awesome seats and letting us meet all the players in the dugout," said Marine Corporal Ronald Smith of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, Bravo Company, who was the veteran of the game. "We're getting treated like celebrities and it doesn't happen very often, so it's been great."

More than 6,000 service men and women arrived aboard the ships for Fleet Week New York. This year, Fleet Week New York is one of the signature events around the country commorating OpSail 2012, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 an the Star-Spangled Banner. The commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is a salute to all Sailors and Marines who fought gallantly in that conflict, who served in all our nation's conflicts since then, and who are defending freedom around the world today.

For more information visit the official fleet Week New York City web site at www.fleetweeknewyork.com or find "Fleet Week New York" on Facebook.