U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN 8th District) and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin remembered those who died in service to the United States during the University of Tennessee at Martin’s 23rd Memorial Day Commemoration ceremony. Martin Mayor Randy Brundige, UT Martin Chancellor Emeritus Nick Dunagan, military veterans and community members were among those who gathered May 26 between the Boling University Center and Paul Meek Library for the annual remembrance.
Lt. Col. Bernard House, UT Martin professor of military science, welcomed those attending and recalled the history of Memorial Day that honors the memory of 1.2 million service members who lost their lives in military service. That number includes U.S. Marine Capt. Brent Morel, a 1999 UT Martin graduate who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War. House introduced Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier, UT Martin interim chancellor, who recognized the direct impact that sacrifices by Morel and others have made on everyday life.
“The things we do on this campus every semester, freely educating students, debating ideas and exploring every facet of the world in which we live, are possible because of the men and women who died to protect our freedom,” Cavalier said.
Kustoff, a Shelby County native serving his fourth term in the U.S House of Representatives, said Memorial Day remains a day of remembrance, reflection and gratitude. “To those of you who are here today who are missing loved ones, who gave their lives for our freedom, I join you in honoring their remarkable service and sacrifice,” Kustoff said.
He recalled attending a Memorial Day event last year in McNairy County where the story was told of a World War I serviceman who died more than 100 years ago. Whether recalling the more recent death of Capt. Morel or the passing of the World War I hero in service to his country, no story should fade with time. “These courageous men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice so that of course we can be free in this country,” he said. “We can never let their stories be forgotten.”
Cavin is a Martin native and UT Martin agriculture graduate who retired in July 2004 following 34 years of military service. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant as a member of the university’s ROTC battalion, rose through the ranks as an officer and earned multiple recognitions during his military career. He then worked for the Lockheed Martin Corp. and retired in March 2013 after serving as a vice president in two different roles with the company.
Cavin began by saying he spoke at this event for fallen military members who could not speak for themselves. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln who said, “‘Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.’”
“Memorial Day, perhaps more than any other holiday, was born of human necessity – the need to pay tribute and to honor the men and women whose sacrifice exceeds all others,” he said, later adding, “They all paid the price willingly for an ideal, not for a political party, not for a dictator, and surely not for the medals they earned. They paid it for you and me and everyone who breathes fresh air as an American.”
Cavin said members of the U.S. armed forces have answered the call for military service throughout the country’s history not because war is good but sometimes necessary. “Our soldiers fought and died not for the glory of war but for the prize of freedom,” he said. “The words of philosopher John Stuart Mill say it best: War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is far worse.”
As America observes Memorial Day, Cavin noted that fewer people relate to military service. “Today less than 1% of America know what it means to put on a uniform and be prepared to give it all if called upon,” he said. He recalled the name of the last American killed in combat – Staff Sgt. Ryan Krause who died at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan – noting that people generally remember sports heroes’ names but not Krause who died serving his country.
“Families of our fallen carry a huge burden. We can never understand your pain,” he said. “We can only grieve alongside you, and many of us have done that. For as you have lost a treasured mother, father, brother, sister; we have lost a piece of the fiber that makes America.” As the country celebrates a national holiday, he urged everyone not to lose sight of its true meaning.
“As we remember these brave warriors and their comrades in arms on this Memorial Day 2023 … we look to the future as we do to the past,” he said. “In today’s world, freedom comes cloaked in uncertainty. America still relies on her sons and daughters to defend her liberty.”
Cavin closed his remarks by quoting Isaiah 6:8 from the Bible: “‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Who shall I send, and who will go for us?’” He said the response from members of the military has always been, “Here am I. Send me.”
He thanked the audience for attending and said, “You have chosen to honor America’s soul, its generations of fallen warriors. May they rest in peace.”
In addition to the speakers, the program included presentation of the colors by UT Martin Army ROTC Skyhawk Battalion cadets and the national anthem sung by Dr. Roberto Mancusi, professor of music. The university’s Department of Public Safety and Martin Police Department presented a 21-gun salute, and taps were played by Jonah Simmons, a junior music major from Greenfield, and Aaron MacDonald, a senior music major from Henry. Cadet Logan Sakarapanee, an MBA student from Mt. Juliet, offered the invocation and benediction.