By Lori Lyn Lirio
“MEMORIAL Day is not just to honor the fallen soldiers, but also recognizing their families who are also on the “frontline of sacrifice.”
Thus said Veterans Affairs acting Executive Officer Bernie B. Dela Cruz during last month’s commemoration of Memorial Day.
“To the families of the veterans, we salute you all. You deserved our recognition as well. Anyone you lose is a deeper loss to you and we are grateful for your sacrifice,” Dela Cruz said, adding that the wives, children, parents made a great sacrifice as well when their husbands, fathers, mothers, sons or daughters are going off-island to serve the country.
For his part, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph D.L.G. Torres, who led the 103 veterans and their families in Memorial Day observance at the CNMI Veterans Ceremony in Marpi, Saipan last May 18, noted “the sacrifices, not just the men and women in service, but especially the family members.”
On the other hand, Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield, commander of Joint Region Marianas/U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, particularly recognized Corporal Derecence W. Jack and Staff Sergeant Wilgene T. Lieto, the CNMI’s first servicemen who returned as casualties from the global war on terror in 2005.
She said they inspired countless men and women to raise their hands in service.
“To Jack’s and Lieto’s families, and all the families who have lost their loved ones and our heroes – thank you. It is because of your continued courage and strength before and after your loved one’s service that allowed us to be here today to count our blessings. We have the utmost respect for you,” Chatfield said.
She reminded the community of the veterans’ commitment to defend the nation “to preserve the freedom and the American dream.”
“From their first days in uniform, the men and women who fought for this dream answered the physical and mental challenges posed by their service. Whether in the gym, in the training center or on the field of battle, they pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones and perceived physical and mental limits to accomplish their respective missions… At some point, everyone who dons the uniform struggles with the unique personal challenges of service be it the frequent transition between units and bases, prolonged deployments and lengthy absences from family and friends,” she added.
“The men and women we recognize today gave their time, they gave their sweat, they gave their tears. And when they had nothing left to give, they gave their very lives. By so doing, they gave us the solemn responsibility to honor all that they have given,” Chatfield said, adding it is the people’s duty to preserve and cherish the honor and memories of the veterans.
Torres, U.S. Cong. Gregorio Kilili Sablan, Chatfield, Senate President Arnold Palacios and Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo led the laying wreath to the fallen soldiers.