Say Memorial Day to most people and thoughts begin to drift toward summer, vacations, outings. Few indications of what Memorial Day was meant to symbolize. YNN's Bill Carey says many veterans are hoping people's thoughts focus not on beaches and picnics, but some walls and names.
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- Even on Memorial Day, on the hallowed grounds of a national cemetery, the nation's Commander in Chief had to admit that it is often difficult for many to truly focus on the real cost of war.
“Today, most Americans are not directly touched by war. As a consequence, not all Americans may fully see or grasp the depths of sacrifice. The profound costs that are made in our name,” President Obama said.
And far from places like Arlington, it is often a parade with its flashing lights and marching bands that draws more attention than the local walls and plaques that carry the roll call of those who gave their lives in conflicts dating back hundreds of years.
“They served their country. They gave their lives, a lot of them. Hundreds of thousands gave their lives. They should remember them every day. Every day,” said Vietnam veteran David Parkhurst.
In New Haven in Oswego County, local American Legion posts secured a four day display of the national moving wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. A grim reminder of that price tag of war. Name after name of those who died, more than 58,000.
Todd Brown, a local organizer of the display, says until people walk along the wall, they just don't understand the scope of sacrifice.
Brown said, “No. They don't. They really have no idea the concept of this.”
Each generation has found itself building walls and erecting plaques with its own set of names. It is a legacy that few expect future generations to escape.
“Unfortunately, I don't think we'll ever get to that point. But everybody needs to see this wall. I wish we could have a lot of our politicians see this wall to remind them what actually happens when you send our troops off to war,” Brown said. “This is a reminder for everybody.”
In his Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery, the President told the stories of recent casualties of war. Among those he singled out, Army Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips from the Auburn area killed in Afghanistan less than a month ago.
Obama said, “Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come. A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.”
Just over a week ago, the people of Auburn paid tribute to Sgt. Phillips at a memorial service in his honor. He was buried at Arlington on May 20th.