Memorial Day observed at Horton cemetery

Published 4:17 pm Monday, May 30, 2011

Hundreds of family members and friends visited Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk on Monday to decorate the graves of their military members. Many more without any particular ties to anyone in the cemetery simply came to pay tribute to the fallen.

Surrounded by hundreds of graves of military men and women, several veterans’ groups joined with active duty military members and civilians of all ages to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery on Monday.

The solemn ceremony included remarks by U.S. Army Maj. Jeremy S. Mushtare, who is currently assigned to Special Operations Command Joint Capabilities in Suffolk. He was commissioned in 1997 and has deployed to such locations as Kosovo, Indonesia, Korea, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar.

Mushtare remembered the history of Memorial Day, known as “Decoration Day” until 1882.

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“It was a day of remembrance born in the wake of the blood and carnage wrought by the American Civil War,” he said. “More than 3.5 million Americans fought, and more than 600,000 died.”

Mushtare systematically acknowledged military successes in each of the wars America has been involved in since that time but was careful to remember those who died working toward those successes.

“In World War I, our Armed Forces were called upon to defend our own liberties, as well as those of our Allies, on the battlefields of Europe. More than 4.5 million served, and more than 116,000 died. In World War II, our nation mobilized around our Armed Forces and once again confronted despotic empires that sought to destroy our democratic liberties. More than 16 million served, and more than 405,000 died.”

Mushtare mentioned Korea and Vietnam, where “our Armed Forces went forth to contain the expansion of communism and defend foreign peoples from tyranny and oppression. Nearly 10 million served in those wars, and more than 111,000 died.

Finally, in more recent memory, the military during the Persian Gulf War “ejected Saddam Hussein and Iraqi forces from Kuwait, kept the pressure on him for 12 years and have now firmly planted the seeds of a peaceful and democratic Iraq where a brutal dictatorship once stood.”

Though the war in Afghanistan, Mushtare said, the military “toppled a repressive Taliban theocracy” and have “systematically pursued the dismemberment of Al Qaeda and affiliate network cells around the world, the latter effort highlighted by the recent elimination of the most wanted of the Al Qaeda network leadership, Osama bin Laden.”

Through the last 20 years, more than 6,000 have died in the Middle East wars.

“It is appropriate to say that the service and sacrifice of these brave souls, who have given so much for us, are indeed heroes to us all,” Mushtare said. “Many died in combat, and many more gave the best and most precious of their years in service to us. They forever have our gratitude for a debt that we can never fully repay.”