The story of two Memorial Days: The balance of honor, celebration

Posted at 2:08 PM, May 31, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentuckians who gave their lives in service protecting our nation's freedom were commemorated at the Boone National Guard Center memorial on Monday.

Community members sat at attention as the names of the young men of the 103rd and 106th Coast Artillery Battalions whose names appear on the Kentucky National Guard Memorial were read.

They fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany during the war and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Lynn Romans' son Sgt. Darrin Potter is among the names on the memorial. He served in Iraq.

"His unit was shipped out to Iraq, and they were on a mission to have a prison, the vehicle went to a canal, it overturned. Four occupants were in it three got out safely. Darren's body was swept away," said Romans.

She says he was the first Kentucky guardsman killed in action since Vietnam and returns for the memorial service every year.

"It's just really important to me that his story as well as the many, many others that have lost their lives never be forgotten," said Romans.

But sometimes they do appear to be forgotten. There are about 1.3 million active-duty personnel, or less than .005% of the U.S. population according to military data. The divide in understanding between those who serve or know someone who serves, and those who don't, appears to only be getting deeper.

"I do think that most people, you'd be surprised don't recognize the real sacrifice of military families," said Romans.

But how do you change what seems to be two different Memorial Days? Governor Andy Beshear has an idea.

"I haven't served, but I've lost friends in acts of war and 9/11 that were killed in the attack on the towers, and I think that if we can all take that loss we feel and think about what families of those servicemen and women feel, then we can honor them in our everyday lives," said Beshear.

It's easy to gloss over the meaning of the day while Americans are getting their first real taste of what they've been calling freedom- an easing of COVID restrictions. But Gov. Beshear says what's also important to understand is the ultimate price paid for real freedom.

"I think a lot of people out there are having their barbecues and enjoying their days and that's okay, but what we ask is that they take a minute to remember why we have this day, all of those that sacrifice so that we can have those barbecues and memorials, that we can feel safe in our backyards and just to take a minute, whatever you're doing today. Remember all those families that don't have somebody with them today, so that all the rest of us can enjoy this freedom," he said.

This year they added a fallen soldier to the memorial. Private Winstell Hearell of Webster County was nineteen when he was struck and killed by a train on active duty.