State and local leaders, military members, families and friends came together Wednesday to honor 106 Kentucky soldiers at the Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Armed Forces Reserve Center and Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) Living Memorial.
Dedicated last November, the BGAD Living Memorial honors fallen Kentuckians from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
“Gold Star” family members (relatives of the deceased soldiers) were escorted to the memorial site where their loved ones were commemorated with engraved stone markers.
Of the 106 soldiers, 80 were in the Army, 20 in the Marine Corps, five in the Navy, and one in the Air Force, said BGAD Commander Col. Brian Rogers. Eighteen of those soldiers were in the Kentucky National Guard.
“I don’t like coming to memorials because they are so sad, but I wanted to come to honor him. This memorial was different. I love the stones,” said Sara Beery, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery, died in Iraq on March 23, 2006.
Sgt. Beery was a member of the Kentucky National Guard out of Bowling Green.
“It’s been five years and it still hurts,” Beery said, who drove three-and-a-half hours from her home in White Hall, Tenn., to attend the ceremony. “I love anything with his name on it — to just remember him — that’s why we came here.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Donald C. Storm, who served in the military 38 years and is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, was a guest speaker at the ceremony.
One of the most important sacrifices are those made by the families of the service members, he said.
“Today, on behalf of a grateful commonwealth and a grateful nation, let me humbly say ‘thank you,’” Storm said.
Storm recalled a day after 9/11 when he sent a company of soldiers from Richmond off to war. It was a tough day, he said.
“They stood up and made a sacrifice that allows us to continue to be safe in this country and continue to keep our freedoms,” Storm said. “The free world owes a debt to you that we will never be able to repay.”
Those who are preparing to serve in the military, such as students in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), should be honored as well, Storm said.
“They are focusing their future on defending this country. They will be leaders for doing the right thing in this world,” he said.
Karen and Kenneth Wallace from Dry Ridge lost their son, Sgt. Daniel Wallace, in 2008.
Wallace was a member of the Kentucky National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We were getting ready for trick-or-treating,” Karen Wallace said, when she found out her son had died in Afghanistan on Halloween.
The BGAD Living Memorial was the second ceremony the Wallaces attended honoring their son. Like Beery, they have a hard time coming to these events because “it brings it back up,” Karen Wallace said. “But, you couldn’t ask for a nicer ceremony. I appreciate what they are doing. I think these memorials do well honoring our soldiers.”