COCHISE COUNTY − Local veterans organizations recently reflected on the importance of Memorial Day, freedom and ways the community can honor those who have served.
“Memorial Day is set aside to honor those fallen veterans,” said Richard “Dick” Perry, commander of American Legion Riders post 24 in Tombstone. “The price of freedom is not free. They have to remember that. About 1% of the population volunteers to serve. If it weren’t for the men and women who serve, this country would not be free. “
Joerg Wallace, previous and incoming Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9972 in Sierra Vista, said that the day should be focused on remembering and honoring veterans.
“It’s a day of remembrance, remembering our fallen and our living: those who’ve sacrificed everything for our country,” said Wallace.
Frank Hirrill, Adjutant at the American Legion Post 52 in Sierra Vista, said that the community should take the time to honor veterans on Memorial Day.
“Those are the people who died fighting for our freedom, and we just got to take a minute just to honor them,” said Hirrill.
Michael Darr, current Commander of VFW Post 9972, highlighted the importance of gratitude on Memorial Day for those who served.
“You can’t dwell on the past,” said Darr. “You have to keep living, (knowing) that you live for those that aren’t with us anymore ... What I think about is my father, and what they sacrificed for us to be here.”
Wallace served in the Army as a corporal. Darr served for 21 years in the Army, retired with the rank of sergeant first class.
Darr and Wallace said that Post 9972 participated in the Memorial Service at the Fort Huachuca Post Cemetery on Monday with General Anthony Hale, U.S. Senator Mark Kelly and Former U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
“We’re involved in the ceremony placing the wreaths, and one of our members will probably be reading,” said Wallace. “We have something called General Order number 11, that deals with a memorial letter that they will be reading off.”
Perry said Post 24 laid crosses down on the graves at Tombstone Cemetery on May 28, and held a memorial service at the post on Monday with Tombstone Mayor Dusty Escapule.
Hirrill said that their post placed flags at veterans’ graves on May 30 at the Cochise Memory Gardens cemetery in Sierra Vista.
“We always honor the veterans there because that cemetery doesn’t get as much focus,” said Hirrill, who retired from the Army as a sergeant. “We’re a veteran’s community, and our focus should always be veteran’s holidays.”
All said that Memorial Day is well-recognized in the community because of the number of retired veterans who live in the area, and the close proximity of Fort Huachuca.
“I think it’s represented quite well, since we’re a military town,” said Wallace. “We have a lot of retired veterans.”
“I really feel that this is a very strong community in supporting the veterans and Memorial Day, everything,” said Darr.
Hirrill said that the day is well-celebrated, but noted how he would like to see a parade devoted to honoring veterans.
“I would like to see parades and other things happen as well,” said Hirrill. “It seems that the only events are what veterans services organizations are putting on. It doesn’t feel like the city puts on very much. I would one day like to see a parade just to honor the veterans.”
Darr said that the community should honor those who have served, acknowledging their sacrifice.
“It’s to honor those that are no longer with us, and they made the ultimate sacrifice for us to have what we have today,” said Darr.
To honor those who have served this Memorial Day, all said that the community can best honor veterans by making a point to thank them for their service and freedom.
“When they see a veteran, I would thank them,” said Perry. “Every time I come across a new veteran, I always thank them for their service. I would ask them to do that. Thank them for your freedom.”
“Don’t forget what they’ve done for us,” said Wallace. “And if you see a soldier walking around town, thank them. Even old veterans, you see them in a Vietnam veterans hat, thank them for what they have done. Just make sure that we never forget about them.”