We live in the land of the free because of the brave.
Bryon Alfred Dary was born on March 13, 1925, in the small town of Clinton, Wisconsin. When I was a kid, we drove through Clinton to get to my grandparents’ home. Dary fought in Normandy on D-Day and received the Silver Star Citation for his actions on Omaha Beach.
Amazingly, he was just 18 years old when he fought in Normandy. A year later, on Feb. 19, 1945, he was killed in action during a battle halfway around the world at Iwo Jima. He received the Navy Cross posthumously for his courage and bravery.
Our family recently visited his grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. We spoke his name out loud, said a prayer, and then placed a Wisconsin flag in the ground by the grave. About 100 of us set out on a cruise aboard the Pride of America around the Hawaiian Islands. Before we set sail, we visited the national memorial cemetery commonly referred to as the Punchbowl because of the volcanic crater it sits inside overlooking the City of Honolulu.
It was only fitting that before we set sail on our cruise, we should pay our respects to the real pride of America: The service members buried there, those they represent across the country and around the world. They are gone but not forgotten.
Walter Robert Boviall is entombed on the U.S.S. Arizona. He died there on Dec. 7, 1941. Boviall was born in Delavan, Wisconsin, which is the town I grew up in. He was the son of Robert and Leanna Jones. I read his name in the white slabs of granite on the Pearl Harbor Memorial sitting atop his final resting place.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was marked as Bovilall’s enlistment city. He was a petty officer second class in the United States Navy. His specialty was as an aviation machinist’s mate second class.
Boviall stands out to me because his name is on the Rutledge — Boviall-Schauf-Madison American Legion Post 95 in our hometown. The members there sponsored me at Badger Boys State when I was in high school. That sparked my interest in public service and government.
Dary and Boviall are among the 12,877 American Gold Star casualties with close ties to Wisconsin. Our group laid a flag at each of the graves in Hawaii of service members from our home state. We had a special ceremony on the hallowed grounds with a wonderful Navy chaplain leading us in prayer for the fallen.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf then shared a few inspiring words. He explained that during his time as the deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, he would often walk through the cemetery to remind him of the courage and bravery of those buried among the heroes. Gen. Leaf grew up in Shawano, Wisconsin, and was happy to see some cheeseheads out in Hawaii.
Each of us was touched by the moving ceremony and by our opportunity to place a Wisconsin flag on the grave of an American hero from our state. It was a true honor.
Last year, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated that her generation was the “greatest generation.” Ironically, she and her contemporaries have experienced more freedom and prosperity than any generation in the history of the world. They are able to enjoy those freedoms and that prosperity because of the people whose names are listed on the gravestones and memorials we saw in Hawaii and in the others like them all over the world.
The ultimate reminder of that sacrifice sits just west of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. The Freedom Wall at the World War II Memorial has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in during the war. They truly are the Greatest Generation. Men and women who served. Of them, all gave some and some gave all.
Down the way stands the Korean War Memorial and across the water stands the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Each represents the greatness of America — the willingness to serve and protect the freedoms we hold so dear.
At the top of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a monument with a statue of Lady Columbia. Carved below her are excerpts from President Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Lydia Parker Bixby who lost several sons during the Civil War: “The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
A powerful reminder that freedom is not free. Let us not forget the price paid by so many, so that we might have the privilege to live in the United States of America. God bless them all. And may God continue to bless the U.S.A.
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @ScottWalker.
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