Las Vegas Sun

May 3, 2015

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Saluting those who died

Former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan on what Memorial Day meant to him


Steve Marcus

Farideh Ghane grieves at the grave of her son Alexander Ghane after a Memorial Day ceremony at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City May 30, 2011. Alexander Ghane, a graduate of Sierra Vista High School and a Navy Seal, was killed during training exercise in 2008.

Mike O'Callaghan, Governer of Nevada from 1970-1978, and an editor at the Las Vegas Sun.

Mike O'Callaghan, Governer of Nevada from 1970-1978, and an editor at the Las Vegas Sun.

There are few people who could write about Memorial Day like the late Mike O’Callaghan. The former two-term governor of Nevada and executive editor of the Sun served in the Marines, the Air Force and the Army and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. The following is from a column first published in 2000:

All Americans should have memories that are enriched every time Memorial Day comes around. This shouldn’t be just another day we don’t have to work or go to school. During the first six years of my life, we had a farm near the small river town of Dakota, Minn. This was the day for decorating the graves of the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I veterans. It was also the day for eating homemade ice cream, cake, lemonade, potato salad, hamburgers and hot dogs, sitting on the grass beneath trees.

In addition to playing and eating, we found time to hear the folks talk about the people in the nearby graves. My father, a World War I vet, and his friends would be talking about their experiences. A special place was always reserved for the town’s three remaining Civil War veterans, who were also my friends.

The Civil War stories of Oliver Tibbetts, who lived above a granary, were my favorites. During the school year, I would climb up the stairs to his room and look at his uniform and encourage him to tell me about Gettysburg, President Lincoln and his experiences as a soldier. He referred to his soldiering as being a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. All the graves of Civil War veterans had headstones with G.A.R. carved into them.

Oliver Tibbetts instilled in me a continuing interest in the men who fought the Civil War. Later in life, I found a professor who also had a deep love and understanding of what happened during that divisive conflict. The late Dr. John Wright of UNLV not only provided enriching classroom experiences, but spent many additional hours discussing the Civil War and Reconstruction with me.

Those years living near Dakota were less than 18 years after World War I ended. Discussions of that war were often dinner subjects or on the front porch where the family visited during evening hours. The discussions about our nation’s refusal to pay the veterans a promised bonus were sometimes heated. Always there was some reference to the friends who didn’t return from what was called the Great War.

What meaning does Memorial Day have for the school children of today? Some of them tell us that World War I and the Korean War are skipped over in many classrooms with little meaningful discussion. ...

Wars don’t happen in a vacuum and have causes and results that color the conduct of people for many generations. When studied and learned about, they provide a rich history for us to use in making decisions for the present and future.

I treasure the history learned as a youngster from the veterans of past wars. These experiences gave me the thirst for additional knowledge and an appreciation for Memorial Day and the people we honor on this day. ...

This is a day to show our appreciation for those who have given their all and relate how their accomplishments have made ours a great nation.

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  1. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  2. When I was a very young child, my family used to go to my Grandma Petersen's old folks home to help her out. There, in my youth, I became acquainted with the tragedies of war by the aging and fragile Veterans who occupied this home. Over a lifetime, their stories become more present, as we continue to see how our American society, that they defended and fought for, some giving the ultimate sacrifice, in HOW we remember and honor them.

    For me, Memorial Day is a time of remembrance and mourning, and I can never live through this particular time without experiencing great grief and sorrow. Somebody's son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, family member, or friend, is gone forever. Somehow, I just can't bring myself to celebrate with BBQs or irrelevant events. There have been too many lost, in my life, as well as many others. All that is left are "memories".

    May we never forget nor be disrespectful of those who have served our country and for the sake of world peace. I pray these benevolent souls great reward for their selfless sacrifice our own and the future's behalves.

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. Hey Mr. Moderator, that was clearly no personal attack, that was sarcasm and an observation on the meaning of solemn holidays to the vast majority of Americans

  4. Thank you all that severed our great country so that I could enjoy the freedoms and life that I do today.

    Our thoughts are with each and everyone of you.

  5. BChap...and nothing should change that. I was fortunate to grow up in France and England post WW2 [1947-1958]. The sacrifice of their military and civilians is much closer to home. I recall the ceremonies at the Normandy beaches, at Verdun, at Chateau Thierry, at Biggin Hill and Lakenheath honoring those folks.
    When I compare our American observation of solemn remembrances I am frankly disgusted. Memorial Day should not be a celebration of gratuitous consumption, yet that is what is has become.

  6. This has always been a special day for me since 1964. Now it is a day that I celebrate that my name is not on "the Wall" and remember the names that I know are there.


  7. I had several relatives I never met. I remember my grandmother's pain when I asked (I was maybe 10) if she had any siblings. She had but never spoke of her brother, kept his uniform for years. He and others were turned into hamburger on Normandy on D-Day. My father was a veteran of Korea. Me of Viet Nam. My first husband died from Nam wounds, eventually. So ignore my insistence that illegal invaders are NOT welcome here. They must earn citizenship and not by entering illegally.

  8. For those of us that served and remember, Memorial Day is EVERY DAY! "Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know!" ~ Unknown