Last evening, along with Delegate Tony Wilt, I participated in a small way in a memorial service and the unveiling of a monument for United States Army Specialist Brian Michael Anderson, who was killed in action on June 12, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan. Of the many Memorial Day observances I have attended over the years, this was the most personal and powerful, and it is one that I will carry with me for many years.
Brian - "Bucky" to all - was the quintessential hometown hero. Born and raised in Broadway, Virginia by his parents, Margaret and Kenny, he was one of three children. Bucky was known to all in his small town, as he played football and was two-time state wrestling champ. After wrestling at JMU, Bucky joined the United States Army in 2008 and was a member of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, New York. In 2010, Bucky and his unit were deployed to Afghanistan. Three months after arriving, Bucky died when the vehicle he was in was hit an improvised explosive device.
Last night, nearly 300 people gathered at Broadway High School to remember Bucky and to honor his service to our country. The part of the program that I will not soon forget is when three of Bucky's brothers in arms took the microphone to offer their remembrances and tributes to Bucky. Each had a personal story about Bucky, painting a very personal picture of a determined young man, loved by all who had a unique ability to put others at ease and to put a smile on your face. When these battle-hardened soldiers marched as part of the color guard they personified the "rough men who stand ready to visit violence upon those who would do us harm." When they strode to the microphone, they were vulnerable young men who willingly and openly shared a glimpse through a window to their soul. They demonstrated with words and tears how much they cared for and miss their comrade and friend Bucky.
Bucky's lieutenant spoke, and he said that nearly every member of the unit asked to make the trip when he asked for volunteers from the unit to travel from Fort Drum, New York to Broadway, Virginia to participate in Bucky's memorial. In his closing comments, Bucky's lieutenant told his parents that he wanted an opportunity to personally tell them what kind of man their son was. "He was - the best kind."
Bucky's story is one of many. Similar memorial services are held all too often in towns like Broadway all across America -- and these services have been taking place for well over 200 years. On Memorial Day, we pause to honor and remember the sacrifice made by these brave soldiers. It is their sacrifice that has secured and protected the freedom we enjoy today. We owe a debt that we cannot adequately repay.
But try we must. We must do as President Lincoln admonished those gathered at Gettysburg to do, to "dedicate [ourselves] to the unfinished work that they who fought have thus far so nobly advanced." That "we be dedicated to the great task remaining before us ... that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
May God continue to richly bless the United States of America.