Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaels, left, Fort Jackson commanding general, Pfc. Nicholas Cohen, post’s 2022 Soldier of the Year, center, and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier, right, lay a wreath adorned with miniature flags from each military branch and the Prisoner of War at the base of the flagpole during the Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony. The ceremony was held at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery May 30, 2022. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

Hallowed stones tell story of ‘beloved nation, one name at a time’

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Hundreds braved the mounting morning heat to honor the nation’s fallen during a wreath laying ceremony held at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

Stately rows of evenly placed, white marble headstones adorned with more than 9,000 miniature American flags greeted attendees of the ceremony as they arrived.

“These hallowed stones tell the story of our beloved nation one name at a time. Stories of men and women who have answered the call to defend our nation, our constitution and our way of life,” said Chaplain (Col.) Samuel “JT” Boone, a retired Army chaplain who provided the invocation that opened the ceremony. “We honor those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.”

As the invocation ended, attendees not in uniform removed their hats as the Fort Jackson 282nd Army Band played the National Anthem. Even the youngest attendees placed their hand gently over their hearts as the trumpets echoed across the field. Veterans from various branches saluted in dress uniforms spanning from the Vietnam and Korean Wars to present.

“Today, we extend our remembrance to every person who has fallen in service to our country. We watch these graves with vigilance and adorn them with the finest offerings of spring as a simple token of gratitude and as an act of remembrance for the sacred memory of those who have served,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis, Fort Jackson commanding general. “We raise above them the flag that they saved from tyranny and injustice ever since it had but 13 stars.”

Michaelis, along with Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier and Pfc. Nicholas Cohen, 2022 Fort Jackson Soldier of the Year, silently placed a wreath adorned with flags of each military branch and the Prisoner of War at the base of the flagpole.

“Our national cemeteries, like this one at Fort Jackson, cradles Soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen with the very soil they died to defend,” Michaelis said. “For some of us, every day is Memorial Day. Many of us here today have the names and faces of those lost underneath our watch etched into our souls. We carry the heavy burden with us, seeking to keep their flame bright and clear. It’s a most fitting tribute that we continue their legacy inspired by their honor, emboldened by their courage and humbled by their selfless service.”

The trio slowly and somberly raised their arm to salute the wreath and flags, the chirping of birds the only sound as they completed their salute and lowered their arms in unison.

After the three returned to their seats, all in attendance remained standing for a moment of silence, rifle salute and playing of Taps.

“Ready, aim, fire,” yelled the rifle salute team leader as seven Soldiers fired three volleys from their M4 rifles.

A lone trumpeter from the band stood along the ridge of the hill overlooking the gleaming headstones as he played Taps.

“To all of you gathered today I make a special request. While you are still on this sacred ground, please stop at a veteran’s gravesite. It doesn’t matter which veteran or even if you know them, they are all heroes,” said Tiffany Thomas, assistant director of the Fort Jackson National Cemetery. “Please read that veteran’s grave marker and take time to reflect on their service to our country. We appreciate your help in keeping the legacies of our brave veterans alive. It’s the least we can do to for those who gave their lives in defense of our nation and our way of life.”

As the ceremony came to a close, attendees walked through the rows of headstones. Many placing a variety of flowers and memorabilia. Several attendees included the Family members of those interred beneath the manicured grass. They took their time, remembering their loved one and some took cell phone pictures to remember the day.

“As you go through this place during peace, hold onto that in your heart that is right and good and godly,” Boone said during the benediction. “Help those who have become weak. Strengthen any of your comrades that have become fainthearted. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”