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Gilbert speaker: Remember fallen as ‘parents, brothers, sisters’

Veterans, families and friends came together at American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert to mark the Memorial Day holiday and pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives for their country on Monday.

Chaplain Joyce Castillo opened the ceremony by reminding the attendees of the monumental cost of freedom.

“We remember today all those who have come before us and have given the greatest gift to our democratic nation — their lives. Their duty, their honor and their lives are precious gifts that must be given to the future of our country and families,” Castillo said.

Sergeant at arms Joseph Kluk draped the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag over the chair at the foot of the podium, while Post Commander Danny Insalata reminded the crowd of the importance of the symbol.

“This is a reminder for all of us to spare no effort to secure the release of any American prisoner from captivity, and the repatriation of the remains of those that died in the defense of liberty, and full accounting of those missing. Let us rededicate ourselves to this vital endeavor,” Insalata said.

Insalata spoke of the legendary Private Martin A. Treptow, who served in France during World War I, where he died while attempting to deliver a message between battalions under heavy fire, and his personal pledge to the cause.

“On the flyleaf, underneath the heading ‘My Pledge,’ he had written these words: “ ... I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.’ We must realize that no weapon, no arsenals in the world are so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women,” Insalata said.

Sen. Mario Scavello thanked the veterans. “This is more than just a day off from work, or just another patriotic holiday. We gather to memorialize their willingness to pay the ultimate price, that of their own lives, to protect our freedoms and to fight on behalf of those who have no voice,” Scavello said.

Rep. Jack Rader called upon the crowd to remember fallen servicemen and women as real people.

“So while we remember these men and women today as patriots, my challenge to you today is to also remember them as parents, brothers, sisters and co-workers, or any of the other various roles they may have played. Some of them may have been athletes, others may have been studious. Some were musicians, while others were known for their off-color humor. Every one of these people were unique individuals, and we should remember them for all aspects of their lives,” he said.

District Magistrate Colleen Mancuso spoke about the work of the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which locates and identifies missing members, providing a sense of solace for friends and family.

“As we celebrate Memorial Day and remember all of those who died, I think we also have to think of all those who died who have not come home. But, know that the government is still actively seeking and searching to find those people and bring them home so that their families will have the opportunity to place a flag at their grave marker,” she said.

Staff Sgt, Danual Hays, an Army Recruiter in Stroudsburg, rounded out the speakers by commenting on the difficulty of Memorial Day when it comes to those who have served.

“For me, Memorial Day is a very difficult day. What do you say to a group of veterans? Or what do you say to a group of family members that have witnessed loved ones not be there for birthdays, not be there for anniversaries, not be there for the birth of their children? You say ‘thank you,’ because that’s really all you can say,” he said.

Hays read the enlistment oath, discussing the fundamental pledge to protect the freedom of all Americans.

“What it means is that you sign a blank check with your life, for the freedom that we sometimes take for granted. You are free because our brothers and our sisters fought tooth and nail to provide that for you,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for our fallen soldiers, we wouldn’t be here today doing what we’re doing. Freedom rings, and that’s what we fight for every day. The sacrifice that our soldiers are willing to make are for our children and their children, that’s the American way,” Insalata said.

Staff Sgt. Danual Hays speaks at American Legion Post 927’s Memorial Day ceremony. Scan this picture with the Prindeo app to see a video of Post Commander Danny Insalata reading the names of the fallen Post members. BRIAN W. MYSZKOWSKI/TIMES NEWS