CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Georgia, May 21, 2015, By PV2 Michael Chapman – Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Soldiers recently joined Georgia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen at the Georgia Department of Defense Memorial Day observance. GSDF Soldiers were tasked with traffic control and public affairs duties. For the first time, the event was held at the Freedom Calls Memorial adjacent to the Georgia National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters. The Freedom Calls Memorial was dedicated in 2014 and commemorates the 42 members of the Georgia National Guard who lost their lives in service to their country during the Global War on Terrorism. Supporting the Freedom Calls Memorial is an ongoing GSDF mission.
The ceremony began with the arrival of the official party: Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, The Adjutant General of the Georgia Department of Defense; Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip A. Stringfield, State Command Sergeant Major of the Georgia Army National Guard; and retired Command Sgt. Maj. James Nelson Jr.
The colors were then presented followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Victoria Wilson. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Nelson, President of the Freedom Calls Memorial Foundation, then addressed the audience, saying that he hopes the memorial will become “a special place for reflection and remembrance by family members of the fallen and the public.” Brig. Gen. Jarrard spoke next and reminded everyone that Memorial Day is a day “to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” Brig. Gen. Jarrard said that “other nations are envious of the United States because of our freedom.”
Following The Adjutant General’s remarks, Command Sgt. Maj. Stringfield presided over the unveiling of the memorial benches which are dedicated to each of the major commands within the Georgia Department of Defense, including the GSDF. As each bench was unveiled, a representative of that unit called out the unit’s motto. Col. Lou Coroso and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick O’Leary unveiled the GSDF bench and proudly called out “Ready To Serve” for all to hear. The GSDF bench now sits alongside such units as the Georgia Army National Guard’s 201st Regional Support Group and the Georgia Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing.
Near the end of the ceremony, the roll call of names and hometowns of each Georgia National Guard Soldier who died during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom was read. The fallen Soldiers were from cities as large as Augusta and Savannah, as well as from towns as small as Ambrose and Tennille. The names of Soldiers from Phenix City, Alabama and Wahiawa, Hawaii were also read. Following the roll call, a bugler stood beneath the Honor and Remember flag and played Taps. The ceremony concluded with a benediction by Lt. Col. Elizabeth Harris-Lamkin, senior chaplain of the Georgia Air National Guard.
Members of the GSDF are always proud to stand beside the Soldiers and Airmen of the Georgia National Guard as they did on this important day. The service and dedication that we honor on Memorial Day should stand as an example to all GSDF Soldiers. Serving others, whether helping the victims of a tornado, searching for a lost child, or dedicating a memorial to the fallen, is the mission of the GSDF on Memorial Day and every day.