Memorial Day 2007 - Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery

clock May 29, 2007 02:39 by author Admin


Ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans . . . I want to thank you for caring enough to be here today. For like most Nevadans, you were given opportunities. The opportunity to join thousands at Lake Lahontan, enjoy the first warm days of summer at Lake Tahoe, work in your yard, or . . . But you chose this day and this moment to honor the service and sacrifices of our veterans. For these heroes sacrificed in the name of Democracy to assure us
these opportunities.

But Memorial Day is not about trips to the beach, picnics, or sales at the mall. I’m not saying you couldn’t have fun this weekend, but take a moment to realize Memorial Day is special, and as Americans we should never forget why. For no other holiday is about honor, duty and the ultimate sacrifice. No other holiday pays tribute to those who have decided the United States is worth dying for.

Time and again – in blood and in suffering – young Americans secured a legacy of peace and liberty for us and for future generations. If we measure the price of freedom by the one million lives laid upon the altar of freedom since our nation’s founding, the cost is high indeed . . . but measured by the lives of generations to come . . . lives full of promise and hope yet untapped … the price for peace is beyond mortal reckoning. And it is this incalculable debt we owe to our defenders - past and present - living and dead.

To grasp the enormity of this debt, some would say we must understand the hardship, sacrifice, and scope of their experiences. Some veterans will tell you, until you walked a mile in their shoes, you can’t possibly imagine what they went through. Maybe it was frozen sleepless nights on the Chosin Reservoir. Perhaps it was the impenetrable forests of Vietnam, or the smoky skies of Kuwait. Each veteran has a unique story to tell. And the experiences of the Korean War soldier are different from that of the Panama soldier. Even the experiences of those fighting in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom are different from their comrades in Operation
Iraqi Freedom.

Let me save you a few thousand miles of footsteps and plenty of blisters. Let’s focus on what we have in common with these heroes. For you see, like them each and every one of us is a son or a daughter. Some of us call ourselves brothers or sisters. And perhaps others may be mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather. It is these family bonds that we can all relate to. It is these relationships I want you to draw on in order to understand a different viewpoint. For on this Memorial Day, at this moment, I urge you to not only think about the dead, but also those still living who have given their happiness. Who among us doesn’t shed a tear, even if only internally, at the playing of taps? Who has not been touched by the sight of a lonely widow and unknowing child standing beside the grave of their parent?

We may only see a fraction of the range of emotions they experience. But through the personal words and thoughts found in their letters, emails and messages our glimpse will provide immense insight into the true meaning of Memorial Day. Their words capture the panorama of emotions and thoughts we share this morning . . . sorrow, happiness, admiration, and love.

The personal valor of Sgt. Daniel Gionet is apparent when you learn he died from wounds incurred after an IED explosion. It is underscored when you hear his final orders to others, “Don’t deal with me.” he said, “Go help the lieutenant, he’s in greater danger than me.” Now as a mother, daughter, father or son, feel the personalized sorrow in his mother’s final letter to her son. Denise wrote, “The fact you turned the medics away and told them to take care of the others. I wish you’d been selfish just that once. That you’d put yourself before the others – but you couldn’t. I understand that now.” This grief of a mother torn between wanting her son home and appreciating his sacrifice is the sorrow we should take with us today.

In a letter to his new wife, 2nd Lt. James Cathey wrote, “There are no words to describe how much I love you and will miss you. I will also promise you one thing . . . I will be home. I have a wife and a new baby to take care of and you guys are my world.” There is nothing extremely unique about this letter, as it could have been written from the Pacific Islands, jungles of Panama, or beaches of Grenada. But it is different because, this war, unlike those of the past has a far greater number of parents like Lt. Cathey fighting for our freedoms. When 44 percent of the fighting force is made up of parents, it’s no wonder 700,000 children have either one or both parents deployed at any time. And today more than 1200 children in the United States have lost a parent in the Global War on Terror.

Together the remaining family will cope and search for bright spots and great futures with new guardian angels watching over them. Corporal Matthew Commons’ nephew Nick posted a note. “Uncle Matt I miss you. Mom and I talk about you a lot. I eat a lot of skittles to grow up a hero like you.” Lance Corporal Donald Cline’s family had a simple request, “We are going to the wall today. Maybe you could send us a sign. Nothing big . . . maybe something like lightning? That would be cool!”

And no one will forget the happiness of the past. Corporal Cline’s mother in law Tammie posted, “I miss your smile and that unforgettable laugh. Coming home and finding dented soup cans that you and Cory loved to use to see who had the stronger head. From the look of the cans I would say it was a tie.” Some of the messages talk of holidays lost and voids that will not be filled. In a note to Sgt. Eric Morris, his widow Jolene writes, “Baby, Happy Birthday and a very special valentines day. I had a dream about you, the sun was shinning the girls were playing and we were happy. I love you and your girls love you and miss you deeply. They hope you’re enjoying the candy and treats they leave for you.” But their sorrow deepens with every candy left for a daddy who won’t be hiding them in his pockets. And the children left behind will lose moments we often take for granted. In Jessica Blankenbecler’s email to her father two days after he was killed in Iraq she writes, “Little things I took for granted when you were here seem priceless now. One thing that I regret is when you wanted to open my car door for me, but I always got it myself. I wish I would have let you do it. And when you wanted to hold my hand, I sometimes would pull away because I didn't want people to see me holding my daddy's hand ... I feel so ashamed that I cared what people thought of me walking down the parking lot holding your hand. But now I would give anything just to feel the warmth of your hand holding mine.” She continues, “I have your military ring on right now. It's kind of big for my little finger, but it makes me feel you're holding my hand when I have it on.”

The sadness of a daughter whose father won’t be able to walk her down the aisle may pull at your heartstrings, but the grief of a mother whose child will never meet his father has no compare. For you see, as promised, 2nd Lt. James Cathey did come home but he is buried with his fellow veterans behind me here. The night before his funeral, his pregnant wife Katherine refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to him one last time. The
Marine honor guard made a bed for her, and before she fell asleep she listened to songs that reminded her of “Cat.” One of the Marines asked if she wanted them to remain on watch through the night. “I think it would be
kind of nice if you kept doing it,” she said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted.” If Lt. Cathey wanted them to remain on duty, every fallen hero should want us all to remain on duty watching over those they have
left behind.

We share their sorrow, but we cannot know their grief. What we can do – must do as a nation – is remember those who have fallen and their families. Remember what they did; why they did it; and appreciate what that
sacrifice means to us. For it means freedom. It means security. It means strength, and the motivation to persevere in times of strife. To do any less – to not remember – would defile the very hopes and dreams of
those we honor today.

How is it possible to honor such men and women, both young and old? How can we honor those alive and dead?

Perhaps we should make certain their stories - your stories - are told to the young. Perhaps we should try to emulate their driven purpose and honorable lives. Perhaps the best we can offer would be to stand with the honor guard watching dutifully over the wives, husbands, sons and daughters these heroes left behind. For from this perspective, Memorial Day is truly about
honor, duty and the ultimate sacrifice.

May God bless our American heroes at home and in lands far away. May God bless the families of these patriots. And may God bless you for caring enough to be here today.

Governor Gibbons Visits Nevada State Veterans Home (NSVH)

clock April 23, 2007 00:59 by author Admin

Governor Jim Gibbons dropped by the Nevada State Veterans Home on April 23rd, to chat with residents, family members, and staff.  Following his tour of the Home, the Governor pointed out he was appreciative of the fine work Home team members were doing and was happy to hear from residents that they were well cared for.  Prior to departing, he commented that he was pleased with the Home and he was anxious to see a second State Veterans Home constructed in the Reno/Sparks area.

Did You Know (DYK)?

clock April 18, 2007 01:02 by author Admin

According to VA Undersecretary Cooper's testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on March 7, 2007:

In FY2006, VA produced over 774,000 disability determinations.

. . . answered over 6.6 million phone calls

. . . conducted over a million interviews

. . . briefed over 390,000 service members

. . . conducted over 65,000 hours of outreach to military members, former POWs, homeless, minority, and women veterans.

Disability backlog . . .

. . .increased every year since 2000.

. . . 578,773 in FY2000 to 806,832 in FY2006.  A 38% increase

. . . 54 percent of them are reopening of old claims.

Over 1.4 million active-duty service members, members of the National Guard, and reservists have been deployed in the Global War on Terror.  Over 685,000 have returned and been discharged.

The number of veterans receiving compensation has increased by almost 400,000 since 2000 (2.3 million to 2.7 million veterans).

Over 54,000 military retirees receive Combat-Related Special Compensation.

There were 2 million military retirees at the end of FY2006.  Over 40% receive VA benefits.

From FY2000 to FY2006, the number of veterans receiving compensation for PTSD has increased from 130,000 to 270,000.

Over 11percent of disability determinations are appealed.  Up from 7 percent in 2000.  There are more than 130,000 appeals no pending in regional offices and the Appeals Management Center.  There are over 30,000 appeals pending before the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

Memorial Day – 2006

clock May 28, 2006 22:07 by author Admin

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans . . . I am humbled to stand before you as the guest of honor. Not sure why I earned it, but still I’m honored. After all, today is a day we pause to remember the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women interred here. I have not made the sacrifice these heroes and so many others made but merely answered a call to serve Nevada’s veterans and their families. I thank you for this honor.

I’ve got something to share with each of you today, but you have to promise not to tell my boss Governor Guinn. You see, I snuck out here last Wednesday to work with the staff. I came in my work pants and hat ready to help the crew prepare for this hallowed day. It’s not that Cemetery Supervisor Wes Block and his staff really needed the help, I’m sure you’ll agree with me, they perform an admirable task in making an oasis out of this place in the desert. But I wanted to learn first hand some of the finer details they oversee in making this day perfect for all of us. As I knelt beneath the columbarium wall and listened to the quail chatter nearby, I was struck with the wonder and peace surrounding us here. Don’t go telling my boss I was just sitting

in the shade of the wall. I was really weeding while enjoying the tranquility of this oasis. As I knelt there, I realized this cemetery represents the culmination of a circle of life. Not just in the theological sense, but in the sense of service to our country and ideals. You see, each veteran buried here, began his or her service in much the same way. Each either volunteered or was drafted to serve our country. They came from the farms of Fallon, shops of Carson City, ranches of Ely, and many other places in America. They may have represented the middle class, uneducated, or the privileged. But together they took an oath to uphold our constitution and became one fighting force with one mission . . . to win.

Together they learned to march in formation, eat from a tin cup, and the sense of belonging to a greater mission. It was together as comrades, they traveled to their war. It might have been the streets of Bagdad or caves of Afghanistan.

More likely it was the jungles of Vietnam, frozen peninsula of Korea, islands of the Pacific, or forests and towns of Europe. No matter which branch they served, these heroes joined together to defeat communism, fascism or terrorism.

Some of them came directly here from the battlefield, forever demonstrating the costs of freedom and our American way of life. Many returned to their lives, jobs, and families to live within the country they helped preserve.

Back in America, they became individuals again. Some became success stories in business, politics, or the community. Others struggled with the daily challenges of a society that doesn’t quite understand the toils and scars of battle. Perhaps they argued with each other over political ideals. Maybe they debated the philosophies of the religions and beliefs they fought to ensure. In the end, these veterans became a cross-section of America. But one day, each will breathe their last breath and join together here. Join together as one distinct group just as the company they served. They will set aside all politics, racial, and religious beliefs. They will join together as comrades and become a band of brothers with a common bond.

I’m sure it’s not a coincidence these markers are lined in the same rows and columns as those that they marched. You see, if we walk across the cemetery, no marker draws more attention than another; no one is greater than another.

These heroes will forever be in one formation, one company and one body. These heroes came together as one for our nation and forever remain as one our country.

And let us not forget those who have not yet joined their ranks. Those veterans who sit proudly before you today and those who could not make the trip. Some day, they too will join the formation here.

Let us not forget those like Sgt. Patrick Stewart who bravely fought to uphold our rights and privileges. Sgt. Stewart and his family may not believe in a traditional judeo-Christian religion, but tradition and religion don’t get our heroes here. Service, sacrifice, and the belief they served a greater cause to every citizen of America ensured each of these heroes would forever find a place in our cemetery.

Finally let us not forget the 150,000 Americans from all of our wars and conflicts who remain missing . . . including Nevadans such as Commander Frank Whittemore of Carson City. Commander Whittemore was shot down while flying his F4 on a mission in Vietnam on April 11, 1968. He is not honored here and can not join their ranks, but we must remember him and all those MIAs.

Sgt. Stewart, Commander Whittemore, and every veteran deserves to be memorialized today and every day. I will not rest . . . we should not rest until every veteran and every military member is memorialized in a manner representative of their contribution to America. Memorial Day is not about the sales, the barbeques, or the camping trip in the Sierra snow. It is about honoring our heroes who have come home and who will come home. We must never forget these great men and women and look to a day where we can march with them . . .together as one.

May God bless them and may God bless you for caring enough to be here today.

About the Author

Kat Miller is the Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Colonel (U.S. Army, Retired) Katherine Miller was raised in Reno and served 34 years in the United States Army.  Starting as an enlisted soldier, she culminated her military service with assignments as a military police brigade commander serving in the United States and in Afghanistan; and as the Commander of the Department of Defense’s largest correctional organization.

After retiring she taught college at the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada, Reno. She served as the Deputy Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services prior to accepting appointment as the Director.

Her education includes a Master’s of Science Degree from the U.S. Army War College and a Master’s of Public Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago

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