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JBLM pauses to honor sacrifice at Fort Lewis Cemetery

Northwest Guardian

Published: 12:00PM May 29th, 2014

About 200 people paid their respects Monday to service members who sacrificed everything for their country.

The Memorial Day ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s base cemetery honored those who died during their service, but also those who died outside of combat or after their service.

“It is fitting here that in this place, in this garden of stone, that we remember those who died in the service of our nation, as well as those who have served,” said 7th Infantry Division’s deputy commanding general, Brig. Gen. Willard B. Burleson III.

Burleson asked people to look at the old graves, such as those of Maj. Gen. David L. Stone, who came to the area that now is JBLM to survey it for the creation of Camp Lewis, and his wife Anita Thorne, of Lakewood’s famous Thorne family.

Stone later commanded Fort Lewis. But he also pointed out the new graves, like that of Pfc. Blake Samodell of Brush Prairie, who died while training for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The memories of those who died fighting for their country or preparing for war are part and parcel of Memorial Day, but Burleson added another category only recently made unique by the modern wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“We must never forget those who served honorably, in combat and in peace, who passed quietly after full lives and sometimes with invisible wounds that they carried, often unbeknownst to others,” Burleson said.

Burleson choked up a little when he talked about Army Capt. Jennifer Moreno, who died last October while trying to save a fellow Soldier’s life in Afghanistan.

“Today is a day we remember her,” Burleson said, “and the more than 6,800 service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Burleson paid respect as well to the Gold Star Families in attendance before reminding everyone that Memorial Day was not just a somber day, but one to rejoice in recognizing those who died for the nation.

Major General Terry Ferrell, 7th Infantry Division commanding general, said after the ceremony that those service members who “gave their last ounce of freedom, for all of us to have what we have today.”

Ferrell lauded the young men and women from each generation who step up and answer the call of duty. Recognition also has to be paid, he said, to the families they came from and the new one they joined. Ferrell said for him, losing a Soldier under his command was like losing a family member, making it a difficult personal day.

He noted the many children he saw among the graves, hoping they understood what they were seeing.

“What you want them to take away is something special happened here today,” Ferrell said. “It’s a recognition of a loved one who has passed.”