“We call this Memorial Day. Really, every day is Memorial Day. We must always remember to honor those who served.”
Those words from U.S. Army veteran Tommy Olds, commander of the SC Combat Veterans Group, summed up the message delivered throughout a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at Columbia’s Memorial Park.
Hosted by the Columbia chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America (Col. Jack Van Loan. Chapter 305), the event included several speakers, musical performances and a ceremonial wreath laying.
Olds spoke for all the veterans who did make it home in showing gratitude for those who did not.
"I'm a 7th grade dropout, drafted at 18 1/2, sent to Vietnam when I was 19. I wanted to live to be 21,” said Olds. “I asked God to let me live to see 21, to come home and be with my maama. Today I stand here at 74 years of age. I know that 58,000 in Vietnam gave their lives.”
Richland County Councilwoman Allison Terracio also delivered a message of gratitude.
“We are grateful to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We are grateful to those families who are sitting here today having lost their loved ones because they showed up for service,” said Terracio. “These are people who showed up to complete their duty. They knew that they were at risk. They knew that they were putting themselves in danger. And yet they went anyway. And some did not come home so that others could come home.”
Memorial Day was established as a federal holiday by Congress in 1971.