Amanda Sullivan

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 21, 2020) — Memorial Day has been celebrated in some capacity for over 150 years. Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was established in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. Decoration Day provided a time for the nation to pause and remember the service men and women who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms Americans experience.

Over the years, celebratory customs, the name and dates of the holiday have changes, but the meaning behind it has remained steadfast.

On May 30, 1868, President James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery on the first observance and honored the fallen with these words:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

As Fort Leonard Wood joins the rest of a grateful nation this weekend to honor the sacrifices of those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who gave their lives in service to the country, community members here share what Memorial Day means to them and how they observe the holiday.

Kathleen Albritton, U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School Instructional Systems specialist

Q: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

A: To me, Memorial Day is a time to reflect and honor the men and women who died serving this great nation.

Q: How do you observe Memorial Day?

A: From a physical aspect, I have observed it in many ways over the years. However, what I find equally important is the emotional aspect of reaching out and thanking the men and women who are still serving, who have served or who might have lost a loved one while serving.

Harry Bailey, U.S. Marine Corps Detachment operations chief

Q: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

A: It means remembering and honoring the warriors who have gone before, the ones who gave the last full measure of devotion.

Q: How do you observe Memorial Day?

A: By placing flags on the graves of veterans and cherishing time with family and friends. They gave their lives so we could do that. Therefore, we should.

Air Force Lt. Col. Josh Aldred, 368th Training Squadron commander

Q: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

A: Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices made to secure our freedom and liberties. Every service member takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and one my favorite lines in the preamble is that “We the People … secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” On Memorial Day, I reflect on the fact that I am the posterity for previous generations of American warfighters and that many before me have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure my liberties.

Q: How do you observe Memorial Day?

A: I try to observe Memorial Day daily. Our squadron takes great pride in celebrating our heritage and historical lineage to the 368th Bombardment Squadron, which served with distinction during World War II. Every day as I come to work, I walk through our Hall of Heroes where we honor the 122 Airmen who gave their lives while flying in combat operations. We also remember those Airmen on our squadron commander’s coin with 122 stars. More importantly, we try to teach our newest Airmen to recognize and remember the service members we honor on Memorial Day; we start every class with a lesson on warrior ethos, we’ve invited veterans to share their stories and we’ve conducted several First Sergeant’s roll calls during the playing of taps. These acts all reinforce the power of remembrance and service before self, one of our Air Force core values. It’s also important to me that we teach our newest Airmen to carry the torch, build new leaders and make time to remember those who have secured our liberties. My hope is that will they will serve honorably and pass on the traditions of remembrance to future Airmen.

Sgt. Neenah Terrell, Human Resources Sergeant, 2nd Brigade, 102nd Training Division

Q: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

A: When I think back in my earlier days within my military career Memorial Day didn’t have the same significance that it does to me now. Typically, I would associate Memorial Day with a four-day pass, barbecues and the company of my peers but after me and those peers endured the loss of others, I developed a new personal meaning of Memorial Day: to celebrate the life of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and continue to share their stories of bravery and courage.

Q: How do you observe Memorial Day?

A: I share the importance of Memorial Day with my three children by telling the history, showing pictures and visiting the graves of the friends we have lost.

Capt. Jason Richmond, 169th Engineer Battalion operations officer

Q: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

A: Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor the men and women who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Q: How do you observe Memorial Day?

A: For my wife, Kalyn, and I, it is explaining what the holiday means to our son, Augustus, and ensuring that he knows it means more than enjoying a four-day weekend.

Clockwise from top left: Air Force Lt. Col. Josh Aldred, Sgt. Neenah Terrell, Harry Bailey, and Kathleen Albritton. Center: Capts. Jason and Kalyn Richmond, and their son, Augustus. (Courtesy photos)


About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.

More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: