05/28/13 — County remembers those who 'gave all'

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County remembers those who 'gave all'

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 28, 2013 1:46 PM

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Col. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, gives the keynote address during the Wayne County Memorial Day ceremony held at Wayne Community College on Monday.

A war was being waged outside the installation gates but, for a few moments, those stationed at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, paused.

A flag-draped casket was making its way from the base's mortuary to the flight line.

Another hero, Col. Jeannie Leavitt said, had fallen.

"As the procession passed, all Coalition forces saluted," she said. "It was an incredibly moving ceremony."


The attendance was far more sparse than it had been in years past, but the roughly 100 people who gathered at Wayne Community College Monday to honor the thousands of American service members who have, since the nation was born, "made the ultimate sacrifice," wore the emotions that have become commonplace at the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition's annual Memorial Day service.

They sang and cheered when a pair of singers presented a medley of patriotic songs.

They saluted and put their hands over their hearts when, as one, they pledged their allegiance to their country.

Some wept when somber music provided a "chilling" soundtrack to a slideshow created to show people the aftermath of true sacrifice.

Judith Thorn was among those wiping tears from her eyes as, one by one, images of final resting places and distraught loved ones flashed across the screen.

"It hurts every year. Watching that hurts every year," she said. "But we need to be reminded."

Ms. Thorn choked up.

More tears fell.

"We need to be reminded that this is what it takes to be free," she said.


Col. Leavitt stands at attention and salutes as the procession carrying a "fallen hero" passes her by.

A senior officer during her time at Bagram, she was among the final group of people who gazed upon that flag-draped casket.

"It is difficult to explain the sorrow and gratitude I felt," she told the crowd.

The gratitude, she said, was for the spirit of that man or woman -- the selflessness it takes to go into battle knowing just what could happen.

And the sadness, the sadness was for families like the one that showed up Monday to honor an Explosive Ordnance Disposal airman who was killed in 2010 in the line of duty.

So when she turned to the mother, father and sister of Tech. Sgt. Adam Ginett, Leavitt offered them her thoughts on the 29-year-old's sacrifice.

"Please know that (he) died as part of something bigger than (himself)," she said. "(He) died ensuring our country remains free."