Memorial Day a time to remember heritage, history, heroes

By DLA Public Affairs

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This Memorial Day, Defense Logistics Agency employees and their fellow Americans will honor the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in service. 

The holiday dates back to the end of the Civil War, when Decoration Day was established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died fighting with flowers. 

“The 30th of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” said then Army Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, head of an organization of Union veterans that called for the nationwide remembrance.

Memorial Day is more than just a holiday, Defense Logistics Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams told employees in a May 18 blog post. 

“It’s a time to reflect upon our patriotism by remembering our heritage, our history and our heroes,” he said, recounting the courage of Army Pvt. George Watson, a member of 29th Quartermaster Regiment during World War II. 

On March 8, 1943, Watson’s unit was aboard the USAT Jacob off the coast of New Guinea when they came under attack by Japanese bombers. The ship took several direct hits and began sinking as survivors struggled to abandon it. While many floated helplessly in the water, Watson swam back and forth pulling his fellow soldiers to lifeboats and safety until he drowned from the current of the ship dragging him down.

Watson received the Distinguished Service Cross and five decades later, in January 1997, President Bill Clinton presented him and six other WWII veterans the Medal of Honor.

“Watson will long be remembered by freedom-loving Americans as one of our most courageous national heroes,” Williams said. “However, his is but one name in a long roll call of valiant heroes from all our military services also worthy of remembrance on this special day… Let’s honor the courageous men and women who fought to protect our way of life and strive to be worthy of their sacrifice.”