By Tony E. Windsor

After pandemic health restrictions have kept public events to a minimum over the past year, the Laurel American Legion Post 19 opened its doors to one of its annual mainstays, its Memorial Day military tribute service.

Post 19 Commander, Darryl Potteiger, welcomed the audience which filled the room and thanked them for helping to honor those military members who have died in service to the country. “We are here to honor our service members and remember the sacrifices that they made in the name of honor, duty and country,” he said. “Our gathering is just one small spark in the flames of fire that burn across our nation today and every day. It’s not a lot, but it is a small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for attending today.”

The Post 19 Color Guard held the customary “Volley of Arms” at the conclusion of the American Legion Memorial Day Services on Monday, May 31. Photo by Tony Windsor

Gary Banks, former Post 19 Commander, introduced Major Marc Evans, the event guest speaker. Banks described Evans as “a great American and a great solider,” and expressed appreciation that he accepted an invitation to address the Memorial Day Services.

Evans serves with 193rd Regional Training Institute (RTI) of the Delaware National Guard as the full time Training Site Manager and as the Operations 01C.

He enlisted in the Army as a medic in 1990, and served on active duty until 1993 in the 7th Infantry Division. Evans served in the Maryland National Guard in the 115th Military Police unit in Salisbury and then left military service for several years in pursuit of a civilian career as a firefighter.

In 2002, he re-entered military service in the Delaware Army National Guard as a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) Non-Commissioned Officer for the 31st Civil Support Team (CST).

In 2005, he began a full time career as a NBC Team Chief and then commissioned in 2008 to be the CST’s Survey Team Leader. In 2014, he assumed the Operations Officer role for the CST and progressed to Deputy Commander in 2019.

While serving at the CST full time, he fulfilled additional duties as a Transportation Platoon Leader, Detachment Commander, Company Commander, and as a BN Assistant Operations Officer. He transferred from the CST in 2018 for his current position at the 193rd Regional Training Institute (RTI).

Evans told the audience that he is a lifelong resident of Delaware and feels extreme pride in being able to talk with fellow Delawareans about what Memorial Day means to him. He began by saying that in preparation for his presentation he had read letters written by Gold Star family members about how the holiday impacted them.

“These Gold Star family members expressed how conflicted they are when someone greets them with ‘happy Memorial Day.’ I never thought about it, but it must be difficult for someone who has lost a daughter, son, father, whatever the case, to imagine anything ‘happy’ about the recognition of Memorial Day,” he said.

Evans went on to share that in the past 20 years, while the nation’s military has been involved with two major conflicts, there have been just over 7,000 service members who have died during combat operations. “The number that gets forgotten is the 18,000 service members we have lost to such things as training exercises, and other events occurring stateside, including suicide,” he said. “Memorial Day is for all of these service members, and while they are extremely important, not just those who died overseas fighting our nation’s wars. But, also those who died while training to be prepared for serving in those combat operations.”

Evans said while perhaps not someone personally close, he believes that everyone knows of someone who has died in military service. “It is important that we help to convey to our loved ones that there is a cost to enjoying the freedoms we have. We should help them understand what the meaning of Memorial Day is and how it is important to our country and where we are today,” he said. “For those who unfortunately have the loss represented by this day strike close to home; know we share your grief. On every Memorial Day we remember the sacrifices of those that went before us. As we celebrate this Memorial Day 2021, may each and every one of them rest in peace as we commemorate their sacrifices.”

The Memorial Day Services concluded in traditional fashion outside in the front yard of the Post with the placing of the ceremonial wreath and the “Volley of Arms” and playing of military Taps by the Legion Color Guard.