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The Chrisman American Legion hosted their annual Memorial Day ceremony on March 30th, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. in City Park. Members of the community gathered to honor the fallen with seven hundred flags that were placed around town in memory of those lost.
Legion Commander Rob Roman led the program. “This day is sacred with the utmost visible presence of those gone before us,” Roman said. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in service of our country and those who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and have gone to their eternal rest.”
In Chrisman, there are seven Revolutionary War soldiers buried in the towns’ cemeteries and countless others. “We marked memory graves where we remember the fallen heroes, but their bodies still have not returned to us. Their bodies are overseas where they gave the sacrifice,” Roman said.
Commander Roman went on to talk about the thirteen service members who were killed in Afghanistan last August. “Their mission was noble. Evacuate desperate civilians, yearning to escape a brutal regime. They will not be the last American Heroes to make such a sacrifice, but they represent the best of the generation.”
Those thirteen soldiers are: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20 of Rio Bravo, Texas. His mother, Elizabeth Holguin said her son was ‘A great kid. We never had trouble with him. He never got in trouble. He was a great guy and we’re very proud of him.’
Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California. Just days before her death, Gee posted a photo on Instagram of herself in uniform while holding a baby in Afghanistan with the caption ‘I love my job’. City officials call her ‘our hometown hero’.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah Governor Spencer Cox released a statement after his death, saying ‘Staff Sgt. Hoover serve valiantly as a Marine and died serving his fellow countrymen as well as America’s allies in Afghanistan. We honor his tremendous bravery and commitment to his country, even as we condemn the senseless violence that resulted in his death.’
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss’ wife, Alena, stated that the last thing she texted him was ‘Hey, I love you, when you get the chance-I know you are busy, but can you please just text and let me know you are ok’. Alena also said the couple were blissfully happy and that Ryan would have no regrets.
Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California. Lopez is the son of two Riverside County Sheriff’s Department officers, Captain Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez. Hunter planned to follow in his parents footsteps and join the department when he got home form his deployment.
Marine Corps Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming. This was McCollum’s first deployment. Rylee was helping with evacuations and guarding a checkpoint when the attack at the airport happened. McCollum was recently married and the couple were expecting their first child together.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, or Rancho Cucamonga, California. Merola was a graduate of Los Osos High School. Chaffey Joint Union High School District school board member Gil Zendejas was quoted as saying ‘Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Unfortunately, we have another Gold Star Family in our district’. The students currently attending Los Osos wore Red, White and Blue to honor Merola during the school’s first football game of the season.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, or Norco, California. Nikoui was in the process of saving children and translators that had worked for the U.S. Government. He passed off a child and went back into the crowd when the bomb went off. Nikoui’s father, Steve, stated that his son ‘loved what he was going’ and he ‘always wanted to be a Marine’.
Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Rosario was assigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain. The Mayor of her hometown called Johanny ‘A daughter of our City’.
Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana. Sanchez was a 2017 graduate of Logansport High School and was a promising athlete, academic and devoted art student. Mayor Chris Martin of Logansport, said of Sanchez ‘Any plans he may have had for his post military life were given in sacrifice due to the heart he exhibited in putting himself into harm’s way to safeguard the lives of others’.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri. Schmitz was on his first deployment, having been sent from Jordan to help with evacuation efforts. His father Mark, says Jared ‘was constantly happy. If you had the opportunity to look through our photo albums, you would see that no matter how we captured him on camera, he was always smiling nonstop’.
Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio. Soviak left behind a big family of twelve brothers and sisters. His family released a statement saying ‘Words can not express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously. We are struggling to come to grips with this personal tragedy and prefer to grieve with close friends and family.’
Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23 of Omaha, Nebraska. Page served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, California. Daegan was a boyscout who played hockey and was a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan. A Facebook page ‘Cpl. Daegan Page-Never Forgotten’ was set up in his memory.
The Chrisman American Legion honored the thirteen brave Soldiers, Sailors and Marines with thirteen flags set in front of the Chrisman Veterans Memorial. “They came from every background, but they share the common goal. Serve America and make lives better for others,” Roman said.
Roman went on to talk about George Andrew Davis Jr., a WWII Flying Ace in the United States Army Air Force. On February 10, 1952, Davis flew his 59th and last combat mission of the war in an F-86E Sabre. That day, he led a flight of four F-86s on a patrol near the Yalu River, near the Machurian border. Davis’ group was part of a larger UN force of 18 F-86s operating in the area.
As Davis’ patrol reached the border, one of his F-86 pilots reported he was out of oxygen causing Davis to order him to return to base with his wingman. As Davis continued patrolling with one wingman, Second Lieutenant William W. Littlefield, and cruising at an altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m), they spotted a flight of 12 MiG-15s of the Chinese 4th Fighter Division heading in the direction of a group of US F-84 Thunderjets conducting a low-level bombing mission on North Korean communication lines.
The MiGs were 8,000 feet (2,400 m) below Davis and Littlefield and had not noticed them. Without hesitating, Davis immediately flew behind the MiG-15 formation and attacked them from the rear. His surprise attack destroyed one of the MiG-15s, and he quickly turned to the next closest MiG and destroyed it before it could outmaneuver him.
By this time, Davis and Littlefield passed many of the MiGs and some that were behind them began firing. Davis then moved to target a third MiG at the front of the formation, but as he was lining up his shot a MiG scored a direct hit on Davis’ fuselage, causing his aircraft to spin out of control.
Littlefield said later, that he spotted Davis’ landing gear open, indicating hydraulic failure, and that he attempted to defend Davis’ aircraft as it lost altitude until Davis crashed and died.
Littlefield reported he did not see Davis bail out of his aircraft. Davis was declared missing in action and presumed killed. Intense aerial searches of the area later revealed no evidence that Davis had survived the crash. In fact, a week after the incident, the Chinese military searched the region and recovered Davis’ body, still in the crashed aircraft. The Chinese never returned Davis’ body to the United States.
Davis was promoted posthumously to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation stated ‘His undoubtable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness and superb courage engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplifies valor at its highest’.
From the American Revolution to the global war on terrorism, more than one million veterans have made the supreme sacrifice. “They died so that we can continue to cherish the things they loved: God, Country and Family,” Roman said.
Memorial Day is to honor the memory of the fallen who have given everything to this country. We are also reminded on this day that brave men and women have always stepped forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s armed forces, willing to fight and when necessary, die for the sake of freedom.
In reflecting on the sacrifices of their comrades during World War I, the founders of the American Legion saw four common pillars as to why Americans so often answer their nations call, even to the point of sacrificing their lives.
“They do it to provide a strong national defense to keep America safe from the enemies who would destroy the American way of life,” Roman said.
They also do it for their fellow comrades. Those who were fighting by their side against all odds and those who separate from them in the military, but proudly claim their status and Veterans.
“They do it for the American Core Values of God, Country, Family, Patriotism, and our freedom to worship as we please,” Roman said. “They do it for their children so they can grow up in an America that is strong and free.”
Its from the pillar of children that the American Legion has pledged its continued honor to those heroes, sharing the legacies and stories of those who are no longer here.
The American Legion has established ‘The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Find’ to help provide financial aid to the children of fallen soldiers.
“Memorial Day isn’t about picnics and parades. It is about gratitude and remembrance. It is about honoring the men and women who made it possible for us to gather today in peace,” Roman said. “We are gathered here today to remember those who have made our way of life possible. They truly are the guardians of our freedom.”