The air is cool and damp in the cemetery. The American Flags snap in the wind like gunfire as a crowd of nearly 100 gather, not to mourn the loss of those buried here, but to celebrate their sacrifice in honor of our freedom.
The City of Live Oak has been celebrating Memorial Day in the Live Oak cemetery on Pennington Road for generations. Each year a distinguished speaker is asked to come before the audience and share their thoughts on freedom, sacrifice and the meaning of this holiday. Air Force Col. John E Trnka Jr. held that honor this year.
Col. Trnka invoked former President Ronald Reagan, who once noted those killed in combat lost two lives -- the one they had before entering the service and the one they might have led had they lived.
He explained that this statement was never closer to home for him than it was just a few weeks ago, while participating in a memorial service on Beale Air Force Base for Staff Sgt. Richard Dickson who died in a plane crash in Afghanistan last month. He was a young local man from Rancho Cordova, said Col. Trnka, and both his parents and his young wife were in attendance of the service.
“I looked at this young man’s wife with their child in her arms and I knew, this was the life he might have led,” Col. Trnka said. He noted that Dickson would not be holding his daughter or tucking her in at night; he won’t be walking her down the aisle or playing with his grandchildren. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we retain today. He is one of many.
Looking about the cemetery, nearly half of the headstones were marked with a white cross and American flag signifying the hardship of those souls at rest.
The message was clear. Take time to honor your service members. Take time to be thankful for the ones who gave their all to protect our country. Take time to thank those still serving with pride. Keep Memorial Day in your heart all year long.