'Memorial Day has become ... our reality check'
The rain clouds broke just in time Monday morning for the Memorial Day ceremony at the 45th Infantry Museum.
The threat of getting wet didn't stop more than 100 people who turned out for the brief, bombastic celebration of fallen veterans.
The colors were posted by the governor's guard sharply at 10 a.m., and the tunes of the 145th Army Band kept the ceremony moving swiftly.
The keynote speaker at the event was Brig. Gen. David Burgy. Burgy is the chief of staff, Joint Force Headquarters of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Burgy is directly responsible to the adjutant general for the combat readiness and operational effectiveness of all units of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
He has seen combat in Turkey, Qatar and Iraq.
"I love holidays. It's always a choice for me between this Memorial Day and the 4th of July. To come here and memorialize those who have come before us and made the ultimate sacrifice is awesome," Burgy said.
"But I'm always reminded of what it must have been like for our forefathers, just to pen those words on the Declaration, sign it, send it to the king committing treason and starting all of this. And since they've done that, we've had to defend it and defend it and defend it. And we will continue to defend it, won't we?" Burgy asked. He was answered with a a round of applause.
Burgy also shared the history of the holiday, which was first known as Decoration Day and officially observed for the first time in May 1868.
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"Three years after the Civil War ended, Maj. Gen. John Logan, the head of a veterans organization called the Grand Army of the Republic designated May 30 as the day to cherish the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes," Burgy said.
"Memorial Day has become and should always be our reality check that the American way of life, that we all enjoy and even take for granted, didn't just happen. It came — and still comes — at a tremendous price," he said.
Oren Lee Peters attended the memorial event, as he has frequently done since retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He was also a veteran of the 45th Infantry Division during World War II.
"The division had more combat days than any other unit during World War II," Peters said.
Peters was a veteran not only of World War II, of which he only saw three other surviving veterans at the ceremony, but also the Korean War, he said.
"I went to work for the military department here. Stayed with them and retired in '81, so I've spent quite a bit of time around them. But it's days like this that I think back at the young men that I served with that didn't come back," he said.
Peters said he helped build the museum before his retirement.
"This is an important day. It means a lot to me," Peters, 95, said. "I've got to be here and try to hold up."