The parade started on Market Street Plaza in Smyrna near the town hall and ended at George C. Wright Jr. Municipal Park on North Main Street where the Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Smyrna-Clayton Veterans Monument.

The Smyrna-Clayton Memorial Day observance today, May 27, began with a parade in Smyrna at 10 a.m.

Featuring veterans organizations, school groups, scouts, fire companies and ambulances, the parade traveled from Market Street Plaza near town hall to George C. Wright Jr. Municipal Park, the site of the Smyrna-Clayton Veterans Monument.

After the parade, a Memorial Day ceremony was held at the monument, with patriotic songs, prayers, speeches, a salute to each branch of the military, a remembrance of prisoners of war and those missing in action, presentation of flags and donations for the veterans monument, the honor volley in memory of the fallen and the playing of "Taps."

The keynote speaker was Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 (Retired) David Dale, the former Command Chief Warrant Officer of the Delaware Army National Guard and the former Rotary Wing Standardization Officer for Joint Force Headquarters of the Delaware Army National Guard. As a pilot instructor, his service included deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III and to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom X.

"Delawareans have fought and died from the birth of the nation through the current conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria," Dale said.

He recounted how Memorial Day was started after the Civil War, and it was originally called Decoration Day with the purpose of placing flowers on the graves of those who died in war.

Dale said he remembers his father and grandfather, both veterans, reflecting on Memorial Day, asking why did they survive when so many others did not.

He said his father would always unfurl the American flag to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in service to our country.

During Dale's deployment in Afghanistan, he was diverted to provide transport for a soldier who had died in Afghanistan.

As the soldiers walked out carrying their friend and hero, "I said a prayer and I realized that somewhere in the United States, a family's life was about to change...they lost the most precious thing in the world," Dale said.

He read an excerpt from a letter sent by President Abraham Lincoln to a mother in Boston who lost five sons in the Civil War. Lincoln offered a prayer asking God to "assuage the anguish" and "leave only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Dale also quoted famous lines from the movie "Saving Private Ryan." When the character Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, is dying, knowing that they've rescued Private Ryan, Captain Miller tells Private Ryan, "Earn this." Then the scene fast forwards decades later to Ryan, now an older man with his family in a military cemetery in Normandy, France, visiting Captain Miller's grave.

Talking at the grave, Ryan says, "I hope that at least in your eyes I've earned what all of you have done for me."

Then he turns and says to his wife, "Tell me I've led a good life. Tell me I'm a good man," and his wife says, "You are."

Dale said like Private Ryan we must earn what those who died for our freedom have provided.

Master of ceremonies Tom Emerson thanked Dale and everyone who assisted with the ceremony and everyone who attended.

"Thank you to this great community for coming out to honor those who served," said Emerson. "Observances like this are rare. It's a vacation day for most of you. You could have been doing something else, but thank you for taking the time to give this tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Donations requested

The Veterans Monument Committee is requesting military flags or monetary donations to cover maintenance and upkeep for the monument. 

Bricks at the monument are also available that can be engraved in honor of or in memory of a loved one in return for a donation.

For more information, call (302) 363-1021 or email at CHC44101@comcast.net.