Begaye reminds all to celebrate the lives of fallen service members, honor their sacrifice

“There is nothing quite like the bond created being in combat with soldiers who would lay their lives down without hesitation for you.”

Army Master Sgt. Conrad Begaye, senior military science instructor, served as the guest speaker for the University of Tennessee at Martin virtual Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony May 22, 2020, and spoke of his proud service as an Airborne Ranger from the Navajo Nation. Begaye also observed his 21-year anniversary in the Army on May 21.

“Personally, my Army story began yesterday,” Begaye said. “I celebrated 21 years in active service… I am proudly one of many Native Americans to serve this great country,” Begaye said.

During his speech, Begaye recognized other Native American service members who were killed in action during his service such as U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alejandro Jay Yazzie and Army Spc. Lori Piestewa. He also paid tribute to 1999 UT Martin alumnus U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brent Morel, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004, and the Morel family.

“Today and every day, I am reminded of the men who fought and died alongside me in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan… I got to know these men personally: their likes, dislikes, weird music they listened to and their future plans when they would eventually leave service,” he said. “There is nothing quite like the bond created being in combat with soldiers who would lay their lives down without hesitation for you.”

Begaye reminded the audience that Memorial Day should be a celebration and a reminder of the service and sacrifice of the 1.2 million service members who lost their lives in defense of the United States, not a day to mourn their loss.

“I am constantly reminded that freedom is not free, and we are guaranteed that privilege from the lives that are given. Sometimes we forget the sacrifice made for the freedom we have. These young men and women stood up for our rights, stood up for those who can’t and stood up for those who are not willing to. The lives laid down for this great country are not forgotten,” Begaye said. “Let us not mourn them but celebrate their lives with honor; honor the flag that they fought for (and) the nation of freedom, which we enjoy.”

Lt. Col. Rodric McClain, professor of military science and master of ceremony during the service, encouraged viewers to remember the service members who “have given the ultimate sacrifice as they solemnly swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on the UT Martin Facebook account, archived on the UT Martin YouTube account and broadcast by WUTM-FM 90.3 “The Hawk.”

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.