War-related deaths are rarely forgotten. For many people, Memorial Day weekend remains a time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in military service. Tom Baker, Chair of the Bluegrass Military Affairs Coalition, has just such a memory. “I had a good friend, from the earlier time I can remember, Walter Anderson. He joined the Army out of high school and in his first week in Vietnam, the convoy he was in was ambushed and he was blown up by a mine and lost his life,” said Baker.
Baker says he’s seen Anderson’s name on the national memorial in Washington more than once.
The Memorial Day Weekend allows for the commemoration of those in military service, past and present. It’s been almost four decades since the military draft was used in the U-S. Jerry Cecil is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. The one-time West Point Academy instructor says an all-volunteer force brings with it certain realities. “The all volunteer Army comes down to a question of numbers. We’ve sustained it for 36-38 years, but right now only three out of ten high schoolers can even qualify to get in one of the services. We know what all those problems are related to, and very little of it is related to attitude once you get one on one with these kids,” said Cecil.
Mike Leverton is a central Kentucky veteran of the Marines. He says the ever-increasing commercialization of the holiday doesn’t completely drown out the original intent. “All the Memorial Day sales and we capitalize on those things too, but at least it does put out in front Memorial Day even if it is some kind of an advertisement. It makes people aware, this is Memorial Day, this is a weekend that we should be recognizing and honoring those people that served their country,” said Leverton.
Leveton helped coordinate U.S. flag postings on the graves of deceased veterans in the Richmond community.