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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Memorial Day remembrance ceremony

VFW Post 10624 Commander Bill King and Ron Herzog perform the Missing Man Table Ceremony.

VFW Post 10624 Commander Bill King and Ron Herzog perform the Missing Man Table Ceremony. Photo by James Arrowood.

By JW Huckfeldt, Public Affairs Specialist Trainee
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Veterans, visitors and employees gathered together to recognize those who gave their lives in a Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony on May 26 in the Main Auditorium. Pianist John Wohlstetter set the tone by playing songs of remembrance prior to the ceremony.

Charleston VAMC Chaplain Ross Rector delivered an insightful invocation, praying for those who continue to put themselves in harm’s way and those who have done so already and paid the ultimate price. Rector reminded all that freedom isn’t free.

A mother’s love

Associate Director Pamela Crowell echoed Rector’s sentiments, bringing her perspective of a mother of an Army paratrooper stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. She spoke from the heart about her son’s decision to serve this nation and described the gut-wrenching fear that grips a parent, spouse, or loved one when their Servicemember participates in a dangerous exercise or deployment.

“Please call or text me after your jump,” Crowell said tells her son before his airborne training missions.

Crowell empathized with those who have felt that fear only to realize their fear turned into reality—that their loved one was never coming home. For them, there will be no text or call to say they are okay. Crowell visualized for the crowd the tip of the iceberg of what Gold Star Mother’s feel.

Honoring the fallen

Executive Director of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum Mac Burdette read a timeless work from Ernie Pyle’s, Here is Your War, describing soldiers pushing on through hunger and sleep deprivation to accomplish their mission. Burdette asked the audience, especially Veterans, to close their eyes and picture the landscape he painted as he read Pyle’s words. Regardless of when Veterans served, Pyle’s words penetrated the essence of what serving this nation entails.

Burdette, himself an Army Veteran, was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and served for 30 years retiring as a Colonel. Four of his high school friends were drafted or enlisted and were not as fortunate as him. Burdette jingled dog tags in their honor. The dog tags, he said, are a daily, grim reminder that his friends did not survive the war.

“There is no sound like that of dog tags jingling,” Burdette said with genuine sadness in his voice.

Burdette gave the floor to the audience to recognize, share, and memorialize those who gave their lives in service of the United States. Tearful stories were shared of heroes who were sent into battle, including one who chose to go in place of another. The stories told that day ensure that their legacies live on long after they’ve departed.

The auditorium lights dimmed and a table with a lone chair was featured under spotlights on stage. VFW Post 10624 Commander Bill King and Ron Herzog performed the Missing Man Table ceremony. King explained the significance of the single chair, white table cloth, inverted glass, candle and plate with salt and a lemon wedge. Herzog pointed to each item as it was being described. After each description, King stated “Remember!” as a bell tolled in the background.

The lights illuminated the room after King and Herzog concluded their demonstration and Rector approached the podium. He led the room in a Moment of Silence and reminded everyone that at 3 p.m. on May 29, to take another Moment of Silence Day.

Associate Director for Patient Care and Nursing Service Garett Schreier concluded the Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony by thanking those who attended and invited everyone for light refreshments served by the Daughters of the American Revolution.


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