“For me,” retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall told a hushed audience, “Memorial Day is not about picnics or ballgames. It’s about remembering my friends.”
And with eloquence, Pearsall did remember, as America paid tribute to the country’s fallen heroes on Monday.
Pearsall was the keynote speaker at this year’s Memorial Day Service at Carolina Memorial Park in North Charleston. The annual ceremony is a joint effort of American Legion Post 166, Fleet Reserve Association Branch 50, the Tin Can Sailors Association, the South Carolina State Guard, and VFW Post 10256.
Pearsall, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a decorated combat photographer, used her time at the podium to share poignant, personal stories of soldiers she knew well, and who died on the battlefield.
“I think of them often,” said Pearsall, whose gripping, first-hand accounts left many members of Monday’s overflow audience in tears.
Like countless other veterans, Pearsall recounted her struggle to come to terms with the deaths of her fellow soldiers. “In combat, there is no place for bereavement on the battlefield,” she said. “The permanence of my friends’ deaths had not taken root.”
That is why Memorial Day is such an important time for America, she said, a time to remember “the brave soldiers who died protecting their country and all that it stands for. It’s a time to cherish, tenderly, the memory of our fallen soldiers.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not often gained without the ultimate sacrifice. God bless America’s fallen, and God bless America.”
Following her remarks in the Carolina Memorial Chapel, a Two Bell Ceremony was held, calling names of soldiers who have made that sacrifice.
Outside, the Placing of the Wreath was conducted, the American Legion Post 166 Honor Guard performed a Ceremonial Salute, and David Coates of Post 166 played “Taps.”
As is the case every year, volunteers arrived early to place American flags at gravesites throughout Carolina Memorial Park.
F. Donald Mucheck Jr., the past national president of the Fleet Reserve Association, served as the master of ceremony.
Mucheck called America’s veterans, and those soldiers currently serving, “today’s patriots.”
“I join Americans everywhere in expressing our deepest appreciation,” he said.