932nd AW historian reflects on Memorial Day meaning

  • Published
  • By Ms. Shannon Murphy
  • 932nd Airlift Wing Historian

“Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name. In some ways men can be immortal.” (Ernest Hemingway)

I have a “thing” I do when I arrive at work every day, at the 932nd Airlift Wing headquarters building. It started as an unconscious habit, until I realized it is now a part of my routine.

Walking up to the main doors, as I pass our flagpole with the plaque commemorating Tech. Sgt. Tony Campbell’s (932nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal) sacrifice for his country in 2009, I put a hand out and touch the plaque. Sometimes I feel the need to stop and reflect for a moment. Other times, I walk, touch, and acknowledge, and other times I subconsciously touch and go, my mind elsewhere.

Campbell’s plaque grounds me. He reminds me that history is more than names, dates, or facts. History is really stories of people; for those killed in action, their history is their legacy left on this earth. Especially in light of battling a global pandemic these past eighteen months, witnessing the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and coming up on twenty years since 9.11, I need some grounding now more than ever. Remembering men and women like our own Tech. Sgt. Campbell, my dear friend Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa (KIA 21 December 2015), and Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent (KIA 16 Jan 2019), is my honor, privilege, and mission.

As we approach another Memorial Day (always the last Monday in May), I encourage you to view this as a day of remembrance, rather than a holiday. Gatherings with family or friends are especially important this year as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to turn another corner. Celebrate (safely) your ability to gather and cherish the time with people who are important to you.

If you feel very far removed from our service members killed in action, I invite you to come and check out the plaque at the base of our flagpole, in front of the 932d HQ building. It is a part of your history as much as it is mine, as members in the 932nd AW. What better way to keep the memory of our fallen as “alive” as we can – to speak of our memories with them, to think of them – to ensure their stories are told.