Packed house for Milford Memorial Day program

Terry RogersCulture, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

The Gerald W. Thompson Center for Performing Arts at Milford High School was filled almost to capacity for the return of the Milford Memorial Day program. The event was not held last year but was brought back to life by several community members who knew its importance. Emcee for the event was retired Milford Police Captain Ed Huey.

“I was a little hesitant to accept the offer to be today’s master of ceremonies, because I’ve never served in the military and historically a member of the Armed Services served in that capacity,” Huey began after recognizing that the event was held in an auditorium named for Jerry Thompson, himself a veteran of Vietnam. “I have three older half-brothers who served, two were pilots in the Marine Corps and the other served in the Coast Guard. The oldest of the three, Al, was shot down flying Air Force jets in Vietnam in 1964. Al was able to elude the Vietcong for I believe it was 11 days and was eventually rescued and returned to service in Baghdad.”

Huey continued, talking about how CBS News used to roll the names of the missing and deceased after each newscast and how quiet it was when his brother’s name appeared. He talked about wanting to be a helicopter pilot and thinking the best way to do that was to join the military. When he told his father he had spoken to a recruiter, his father told him “Absolutely not” as he could not go through that again. Huey joined the police force instead, learning to fly helicopters on his own. Huey then stated that they were not there to talk about he or his family, but to talk about those not as fortunate as his brother. Instead, the event was to celebrate those who did not make it home and who sacrificed everything for their country.


“We do not want the memories of them disappear. We come together as a community, state, and nation, and we honor that this year. Their memories remain in our hearts forever,” Huey said. “With that in mind, I’m very, very humbled and thankful to be able to lead this program and remember our national heroes and show my appreciation to not only them but their families as well. And I’m thankful that all of you are here to do this.”

Huey then introduced two World War II veterans, James Johnson and John Holt. Johnson was present when General Douglas MacArthur signed a peace agreement with the Japanese. In addition, Galen Polk, a World War I veteran was also in attendance. Polk received standing ovation. First State Military Academy presented the colors and Lorraine Leavel sang the national anthem. Boy Scout Troops 116, 186 and 534 led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the invocation by Deacon Scott Landis of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church. Mayor Todd Culotta , also a former Marine, welcomed those in attendance.

“Today we pause to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have paid the ultimate price in the defense of our country. It’s absolutely great to have this event again and I want to thank people for making this happen. Like to thank the committee for coordinating this event,” Mayor Culotta said. “I remember one of the first times I experienced what this day really means. I was actually a photographer for the Chronicle when I was 15 and I covered a ceremony like this downtown. And if anybody remembers the memorial monument, it is now in Bicentennial Park, but it used to be an island on South Walnut Street right in front of Jesus Love Temple. And I kind of read the names of those who left Milford and went overseas and never came back. At a young age, it was difficult to grasp that concept That monument continues to be there today. It’s updated all the way through Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I would encourage you to go visit that monument today and also see the Rotary Club display of flags. I find this quote to be especially fitting today. It is from an unknown source. It says “our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. it flies with the last breath of every soldier who died defending it.” Again, thank you for coming today and I want you to remember that today, we are the home of the free because of the brave.”

After the words of Mayor Culotta, Mark Dissinger read “In Flander’s Field,” a poem written by John McCrae during World War I that expresses his grief, anger and resolve after witnessing the losses of war. This was followed by the playing of the Armed Forces Tributes. The anthem of each branch of the military was played with members of the audience who served or were serving in each branch standing to salute.

“We all live in an age of technology, and it is all around us, including these little things called Apple watches,” Huey said after the anthems were completed. “This tells you when your heart rate is up and during that performance, it let me know my heart rate was up.”

Next was the Wreath of Remembrance where members of each branch of the military, police and other organizations placed a flower on a wreath in memory of the fallen. Justin Pychacksky represented the United States Army while Joseph “Bud” Evans represented the United States Marine Corps. The United States Navy was represented by Earl Yoder and United States Air Force by Kenneth Lutz. The United States Space Force was represented by Keith Bauer and United States Coast Guard by John McClean. Arthur Miller placed the flower for the United States Merchant Marines and Joan Muffler for the Gold Star Families. The Veterans of Foreign Wars had their flower placed by Mark Stayton and the Military Order of the Cooties by Christopher Lucas. Audrey Cohen represented the Disabled American Veterans while Chief Cecilia Ashe of the Milford Police Department and Corporal Dan Myers of the Delaware State Police placed the flower for fallen police officers. Following the singing of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Leavel, Master Sergeant Mercedes McCoy Garrett spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow service members, distinguished guests, and most importantly, those fallen heroes, as we sit here today on this occasion of whom we come together as a nation to honor and remember the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and service to our country. We pay tribute to their courage, and their unwavering commitment to protecting the freedoms that we also have,” Sgt. Garrett said. “It is a day of remembrance, reflection of those who give their lives so that we live in freedom. As a member of the United States Air Force, I am honored to stand with those who have chosen to answer the call of duty, literally putting themselves in harm’s way. Every loss is a loss of to our nation, a loss to our military and most importantly, an immeasurable loss to the mothers, fathers and all family members.”

Sgt. Garrett continued.

“As we honor their memories of our fallen, a piece of struggle to understand the meaning of sacrifice and loss. They were our brothers and sisters and our friends and neighbors and today, we honor our members with that love and gratitude, in the lives they upheld, the bravery they displayed and the legacy they left behind. Today, we will remember that families who also bear the burden of their sacrifice,” Sgt. Garret said. “We send them our condolences and unwavering support. If you have lost a loved one and in the line of duty, there are no words that can significantly express the depths of your sacrifice. To know the pain of your loss. It is still fresh. Remember that I strive to be worthy of their sacrifice and honor their memory by working together to build a better, more just a more peaceful world. As we reflect on the losses of the past that is also remember the challenges we face today. The world, our world is ever changing and the threats we face are real. US Armed Forces we are committed to upholding the lives of freedom and justice that the vibrant nation we stand ready.”

Of the various assignments she has had in her 15 years of service, Sgt. Garrett stated that her service at Dover Air Force Base has been the most humbling and honorable.

“Starting at the mortuary was a profound and humbling experience. Every day we care for the remains of service men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. We treat each moment of their return home with dignity and respect, ensuring that they will be prepared and transport with the highest level of care and professionalism. We honor their memory and sacrifice for our country. It’s about trying to give closure and comfort to the families knowing the type of loss they have suffered. It’s about upholding the values and concerns that advise our military,” Sgt. Garrett said. “I remember when I was a young airman standing on the flight, ready to transfer when an aircraft landed with several fallen members on board. I was overwhelmed with emotion. At that moment, I promised to care for them with the utmost honor and professionalism. I remember thinking families are depending on me to send them home to their final resting place.”

Continuing to describe her feelings as she prepared to care for a fallen soldier, Sgt. Garrett explained that she knew how important her role was.

“It takes a sense of selflessness to be in a position to care for the remains of fellow servicemembers, but you learn true meaning of service and sacrifice. It showed me the importance of honoring and remembering our fallen heroes and the impact their sacrifice was having on our nation and ours. It was truly a privilege to serve on lives and dedicated and compassionate individuals and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of such an important mission,” Sgt. Garrett said. “Everyone is committed to their memory, and it makes me strive to live worthy of their sacrifice. And to never forget the true costs. May you always remember the great men and women who paid with their lives and that freedom is not free.”

Huey commented that he had the opportunity to attend a ceremony and to tour the DAFB mortuary, finding it to be a humbling and solemn experience. He recommended that anyone who had the chance to do so, take the opportunity. The Milford Community Band then played “ The Light Eternal,” a song composed by James Sewaringen. The song was inspired by the story of four United States Army chaplains who heroically sacrificed their lives during World War II.

“Torpedoes struck the USS Dorchester off the coast of Greenland in the North Atlantic in February 1943. In only 27 minutes, the ship had disappeared beneath the waves into the cold water,” Huey said. “Of the 900 people on board, only 230 survived and it was the worst sea disaster of the war. Among those on the ship were a Catholic priest, two Protestant ministers and a Jewish rabbi. After the impact of the torpedo with the resulting explosion, the four chaplains spread out among the men on board, comforting the frightened and leading men to safety. Each one of them eventually gave their own life to a soldier on board by handing them their life jackets. Survivors reported seeing the four chaplains in locked arms praying in unison as the ship sank.”

Once the song was finished, Mark Stayton, Commander of Blue Hen Post #6483 provided details about the “Missing Man Table” set up on the stage. Ed Moczulski was supposed to read the description, but suffered a knee injury and was unable to attend the ceremony. Kathy Martin then sang “God Bless America.”

“In December of 2008 Congress passed a bill that was signed into law entitled The National Remembrance Act, which asks each of us to remember the brave men and women in their lives and protect our security across the globe.,” Huey said. “At three o’clock local time, all of us should pause for a minute of silence and honor those that have died in service. Although it is not part of the legislation, if you play any instrument, you could also join thousands of other Americans across the country and, at 3:01, play “TAPS,” a program known as TAPS Across America.”

A 21-gun salute was performed by the Delaware State Police outside the building but could be heard clearly inside. This was followed immediately by “TAPS,” performed by Andrew Siegel ETCC (SS), United States Navy retired. Pastor Dan Holt of Avenue United Methodist Church provided the benediction, and the colors were retired by the First State Military Academy.










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