Ft. Jackson Memorial Day ceremony honors fallen South Carolinians

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 4:39 PM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2022 at 7:54 PM EDT
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FORT JACKSON, S.C. (WCSC) - At few places is honoring the sacrifice of those who gave everything serving America more evident this Memorial Day than at national cemeteries, the final resting places of millions of American service members and veterans.

For the first time since 2019, the Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony at Fort Jackson National Cemetery was open to the public.

Even an hour before the ceremony started, people had already arrived to pay their respects.

Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis, commanding general at Fort Jackson, spoke to those gathered at Fort Jackson National Cemetery to honor and remember.

“I don’t think any of us expected the size of the crowd and the level of support we had today, so it means something fundamental to all of us who have lost brothers and sisters in support of their country,” Michaelis said.

He said the American service members and their families buried here and other cemeteries across the nation and the world are why the United States endures.

“That sacrifice for something greater than yourself is something we should be proud of as a nation,” Michaelis said. “It makes us and defines who we are, and we do it willingly.”

Afterward, the rifle salute and playing of taps honored them all.

Flags adorned each grave, including that of 1st Lt. Justice Stewart, a Marine from Columbia who died last summer while stationed in North Carolina. For Stewart’s mother, Tia Jones, the familiar tributes took on new significance this year.

“Looking at all the flags and the flowers and everyone that’s here, it lets me know that I’m amongst a family,” Jones said.

For her, the white stones and the red, white and blue flags that adorn them remind her that as she remembers her Marine, the country, together, remembers her, too, along with the millions who served just like her.

“We didn’t choose to be part of this family, but we are here,” she said. Monday marked Jones’ first Memorial Day laying flowers for her daughter.

“It definitely hits home for me, and being the first one is an emotional one,” Jones said. “Being able to come out and just to pay tribute and to honor them during this moment just was extra special for me, for what everyone has done, but especially also for what my daughter has done for this country as well.”

The reopening of Memorial Day ceremonies to the public Monday wasn’t just happening at Fort Jackson National Cemetery but across the country. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave the OK for the first time since the pandemic began for all Americans to pay their respects in this way this Memorial Day.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains 155 national cemeteries across the country. Fort Jackson National Cemetery is the newest of South Carolina’s three national cemeteries, along with those in Beaufort and Florence.

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