Honoring Those Who Gave All
Having been a part of Memorial Day services from Georgia to Texas, United States Army Col. Brian McHugh visited Fulton County Monday to honor veterans who gave all.
Saying his experience here was not only one of the best services he had participated in over 23 years but also one of the most personal, Col. McHugh stated he was certain Daniel McConnell himself would be proud to know his town was so full of patriots almost two and one quarter centuries after being laid to rest.
“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,” said McHugh, citing former President John F. Kennedy.
“It’s is fitting that our nation chooses this day, the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. This day marks the beginning of summer, and what could be a more fitting tribute to men and women who died in service to their country than the day that gives birth to a season filled with warmth and life,” asked McHugh. “The founders of Memorial Day must have imagined flowers in bloom, a million or more representing those lost in battles here and on almost every continent around the globe. They must have imagined the opportunity to tell the stories of the past to the American people who will pass these stories on to the children of tomorrow.”
McHugh pointed out that since 1866 the United States has paid tribute to over 1 million military men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while in the line of duty. “As you must know, fewer and fewer of the patriots who survived World War II, Korea and Vietnam are still with us. We must seize this day to seek them out and learn their stories; and once learned, share them with the next generation ... . It is our responsibility as citizens to pay homage to those who die in service to the nation but oh how much more is our responsibility to pay homage before they pass,” stated McHugh.
McHugh went on to speak of “heroes who rose to meet seemingly impossible odds and did extraordinary things.” Referencing SSG Chris Cutchall and LCpl. Steven Szwydek, McHugh said these brave men and woman left the safety of sovereign soil to “defeat tyrants, ensure justice and fulfill the promise of safety and security for our citizens and the global community.”
With the raising of the flag done by individuals like the Cutchall and Szwydek families, McHugh paid homage to those families who have lost a loved one to service to the nation.
“They carry on each day with pictures on mantels and mementos of a life not fully lived. They carry on understanding that their service member chose this life of service and thus they understood the potentiality of their death as a sacrifice for the sake of freedom,” McHugh said. “These men and women left behind, carry on their service members message; raising up their memory like an unfurled flag. Today we also honor them, for they bear a burden only they can comprehend.”
McHugh, a native of Virginia, was commissioned as a 2LT, Infantry on May 4, 1989, following his graduation from Virginia Tech. Over the last 23 years, he has held numerous command and staff positions, including rifle platoon leader during Desert Shield/Storm, company commander in the United States Army Recruiting Command, chief of plans for a brigade combat team deployed to support Kosovo, rifle company commander, BN operations officer and battalion executive officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 and squadron commander of the 6th Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom 09-10. He is currently a student at the United States Army War College in Carlisle and was invited to Monday’s ceremony by American Legion Post 561, McConnellsburg Cmdr. Bob Huffman Sr.
McHugh’s speech took place beneath blue skies at Union Cemetery just south of Mc- Connellsburg. Presentation of the memorial wreaths at Union Cemetery and later in the morning outside the Fulton County Courthouse was by George Black of the American Legion; Monte Rasp of American Legion SAL; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 655 Cmdr. George Cutchall; Joyce Mellott of the VFW Auxiliary; and Carol Singel of the American Legion Auxiliary.
Chaplain Robert Snyder provided the memorial prayer at both services, while a salute to departed comrades was overseen by the Fulton Honor Guard, which is led by Capt. Timothy “Mike” DeShong. Various musical selections offered at the Memorial Day observances were by the Mc- Connellsburg High School Band.