Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) marked Memorial Day in ceremonies in Colonial Beach, the Town of Indian Head and on board Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren. All three ceremonies honored Americans killed in the service of their country and commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. The 1942 battle turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific against Imperial Japan and in favor of the Allies.
The May 28 ceremony in Colonial Beach began when Tommy Edwards, of American Legion Post 148, asked veterans attending the ceremony to step forward. The crowd honored the veterans with a round of applause.
Sailors from the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) presented colors before the crowd recited the pledge of allegiance. The choir of the Colonial Beach Baptist Church led the community in signing the National Anthem, and Edwards introduced Capt. Pete Nette, NSASP commanding officer, as the ceremony's guest of honor.
"Thank you for having me," said Nette. "Distinguished veterans, Mayor [Fred] Rummage, honored guests and fellow citizens in Colonial Beach, it's a privilege to wear the uniform of the United States. And it's an honor to be speaking to you on Memorial Day to honor and celebrate those who have given their lives to this great nation."
Nette praised the veterans in attendance and spoke about their personal links with the fallen. "Like all of you I love this country and I'm proud to be a citizen," he said.
"As we gather, I ask you to look around to those who have served in the past and in the present. They're the ones who served side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with those who made the ultimate sacrifice."
Those sacrifices, said Nette, can be found everywhere in American history. "Through the years and through our wars, America has never ceased to honor [our fallen]," he said.
"At places like Lexington and Concord, at Gettysburg, Leyte Gulf, Anzio, and today's places like Kandahar, Kabul, Baghdad, Fallujah and Anbar Province, the sacrifices made by courageous heroes write the new chapters in the continuing story of American freedom."
The number of Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice is sobering. "More than 1.3 million American service members died in the wars and conflicts this nation has fought since 1775," said Nette.
"Each person who died ... was a loved one, cherished by family and friends. Each was a loss to their community, just like ours in Colonial Beach. Each will be remembered with a smile, a laugh, a tear, a memory."
Nette connected the sacrifices of yesterday to today's struggle against Islamic extremism. "In this era, the best defense is an assertive offense," he said. "That means a fighting Navy and its brothers in arms, our Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Coastguardsmen, and National Guard."
It was a fighting Navy and an assertive offense that won the day for America 70 years ago at the Battle of Midway. "Some 70 years ago Americans engaged in a brutal four-day battle at Midway, in the Pacific," said Nette, at the May 30 Memorial Day ceremony on board NSF Dahlgren.
"Prior to this action, the Japanese possessed naval superiority over the United States. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they could usually choose when and where they wanted to attack. Japan seemed unstoppable."
Through code-breaking, planning and above all, sacrifice, the tide was turned. "After the amazing sacrifice of Sailors and Marines at Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially matched. The United States soon took the offense and the momentum of the war," said Nette.
"Midway was a statement of the importance of naval power. It was a pitched battle of sacrifice and struggle against an extraordinarily capable opponent, but most of all it was a battle that showed the world what the American Sailor could do."
The message was the same at the ceremony held later the same day at Indian Head's Village Green Pavilion. "The stories of courage at Midway are remarkable in every sense," said Nette. "From the stories of Sailors who stayed at their post until the bitter end, to stories of Sailors who rescued their shipmates from the sinking carrier (USS) Yorktown.
"This battle had many heroes: the code breakers who gave us the location and date of the battle, the shipyard workers who prepared the fleet, the Airmen and Marines who fought for Midway Island and the Sailors who fought at sea. The actions taken by the individuals who fought in this battle, the strength of their character and the firmness of their resolve is why this battle is so significant in our history."