SUGAR GROVE – Gen. George S. Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”
Mike Gibbs, financial officer for the American Legion Post 1271 in Sugar Grove, takes Patton’s words a step further, saying that Memorial Day is a time to celebrate all those who have served and memorialize those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I think Memorial Day stands for memorializing those who have given it all in their lives and the best thing we can do to celebrate this occasion is to memorialize and appreciate the sacrifice they gave to us,” he said. “We should also remember the ones who are serving now and the one thing I think we don’t do enough of is to take into consideration their families. They ultimately pay. They may not lose a loved one, but they lose them for years when they’re out serving which is tough for everyone involved.”
Gibbs served in the Navy from 1986 through 1995 and said it doesn’t feel so long ago from when he was caught up in the Gulf War, even though that was nearly 25 years ago.
“A lot of it seems just like yesterday,” he said. “Sometimes I have to reflect. I had flown out and we had an engine blow up and they had to make a decision to drop us in a war zone or go back and try to land on a carrier. Every time I get on a plane I think of that again.”
There are numerous ways that the public spends Memorial Day with family gatherings, backyard barbecues and baseball games, as well as celebrating the holiday with ceremonies, parades and placing flowers and flags on gravesites.
“I’m a motorcycle club member with a lot of military and law enforcement people, so I appreciate a lot of the ceremonial rides,” Gibbs said. “People come out with their flags and wave and clap. Some go to the memorial readings at cemeteries. It’s nice to just make a presence, to take the time to recognize others and help memorialize these great sacrifices.”
On Memorial Day, there were readings at the Jericho Cemetery as well as the Sugar Grove Cemetery on Merrill Road.
As for the Legion, there’s plenty happening now and into the summer.
“We’ve got some momentum and have been able to fund some things and have some events,” Gibbs said. “It’s good to come on out to the Legion to eat, to spend time here, and helps us fund these programs.”
Those programs include a pair of $3,000 scholarships to assist Sugar Grove area high school graduates, and some special events, including Legionapalooza on June 18, which will feature a few live bands, including Weekend Crush, lots of food and drinks, raffles and more.
“It’s always a good time to come and see what the Legion is all about,” Gibbs said. “And we’re also supporting Trevor Sartain for a Ruck March to help with PTSD.”
Sartain, the commander of Post 1271, was scheduled to participate in a 20-mile Ruck March on May 25 to raise awareness of veteran suicide and to fight the epidemic. The number 20 is significant as a recent VA study reports that the number of veteran suicides is still at 20 per day although they have dropped from 22, which shows that a difference is being made today.
The American Legion is also pursuing other PTSD-related programming involving dog and horse therapies and has other events planned for the summer and fall, including its annual bags tournament starting in July.