Hundreds gathered Monday at Dayton National Cemetery to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to defend America.
The hour-long Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery where 55,000 military service members are buried paid tribute to those killed in action, as well as prisoners of war and honored the families of those fallen.
“On this day we honor all of those who have gone on before us. And those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Doug Ledbetter, director of the cemetery. “Take Memorial Day beyond today. Honor and remember our heroes every day and encourage others to do the same.”
Among those remembered was Army Pfc. James P. White Jr., a Huber Heights man who was among the many who – as a chaplain put it – “have given their last full measure of devotion toward. That this land, the United States of America – shall ever be free”
White, a 2005 graduate of Wayne High School, was assigned 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
He was killed Aug. 11, 2006 when his platoon came in contact with enemy forces using rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire during combat operations in Afghanistan.
White’s father was among those Monday who laid a wreath in honor of his son. The ceremony – which included the Wright-Patterson Air Force Honor Guard and a rifle salute by the cemetery’s honor squad - also paid tribute to POW Albert Brown, a Lewisburg man who served in the infantry during World War II.
Although a survivor that war, James “Pee Wee” Martin remains an unquestioned hero, said master of ceremonies John Seibel.
The 98-year-old Army veteran and Sugarcreek Twp. resident said he was lucky to have survived his tour, which organizers said included three of the key battles of what Martin called “the greatest conflict that anybody has ever seen in the world.”
The Kiser High School graduate enlisted in 1942 and – assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion/ G Company – took part in D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.
Both sides, Martin told the audience, committed “atrocities,” but he would serve again to defend his country.
“While it seems terrible today for the things that both sides did, nobody who didn’t serve there has the right to criticize any of us,“ Martin said.
“Also you’ve got to understand that the conflict in which we engaged was the greatest conflict that anybody has ever seen in the world,” he added. “And for those of us that went through that and came back…..we’re extremely fortunate.
“I don’t regret having gone and I would go again under the same circumstances without any qualms whatsoever.”