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Fallen soldiers honored, National Guard explained on Memorial Day

The Jackson Municipal Band kicked off the Memorial Day ceremony by playing patriotic music. Photos by Gregory Dullum

Violent storms, including tornadoes, raged through the region as rain fell most of the day Sunday, May 26.

But the sun rose on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, to blue skies and comfortable temperatures, and the Memorial Day ceremony held at the entrance to Jackson’s historic City Cemetery began at 9 a.m. without a hitch.

The Jackson Municipal Band played about a half hour of patriotic songs, including a tribute to the various branches of military service, in which active and retired members of those branches rose to their feet to receive audience applause.

Retired Col. Chris Mickan, a former chief of staff for the Missouri National Guard, was the guest speaker.

“Let’s remember the fallen servicemen with pride this Memorial Day. No words are enough to thank the wonderful men and women who have lived for this country and died for their countrymen. Thank you to the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Michan.

“In my unit, we lost nine friends and soldiers during my ’07-’08 deployment in Iraq. My neighbor and friend, Staff Sgt. Brad Skelton from Jackson, was one of them we lost. Many of us go to Brad’s grave site at different times of the year — Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the day of his death.

“Keeping the memory alive is important. There is an old saying many of us have heard, that we die three deaths. The first is the time the soul leaves our body, the second time is when our body is placed in the ground, and the third time is the last time our name is ever spoken. So remembering this day and the fallen is a day that is so important.”

Mickan also explained what the National Guard does. He pointed to the six flags representing the six branches of the military and said each branch has its own four-star general. “About a decade ago, the Guard received a four-star general, and he sits at the same table with all the joint chiefs now,” Mickan said. “And with that, it make a big difference in the building of the Guard to have a voice.”

The Guard is deployed a lot. The week before Memorial Day, the 1140th Engineers from Cape Girardeau had deployed to Qatar and Kuwait. They will serve in various areas in the Middle East. Two months ago, the 1221st out of Dexter deployed to Poland.

These units provide transportation and support for soldiers heading to the Middle East.

The Missouri Army and Air Guard have more than 500 soldiers serving abroad right now.

The National Guard also deploys on missions here in the U.S. “Currently Missouri has over 350 soldiers on the Southwest border of Texas. This is a multi-National Guard mission,” Mickan said. It involves Guard members from other states as well.

The Missouri Guard has 56 armories across the state; seven are within 150 miles of here: Jackson, Cape, Perryville, Fredericktown, Farmington, Sikeston and Dexter.

There are more than 1,000 full-time active duty Missouri Guard and technicians supporting over 10,000 soldiers across the state.

The 35th Infantry Division is shared with the State of Kansas. Missouri has eight brigades, 17 battalions and branches varying from aviation, artillery, chemical, infantry, engineering, logistics, military police, transportation, medical and signal, not counting the special services of JAG lawyers, chaplains, public affairs, the army band, administration and family services.

The Missouri Air National Guard has over 300 full-time people supporting around 2,500 airmen. The 131st Bomb Wing in Whiteman, the B-2 Stealth Bombers, the 139th Air Wing and the 157th Air Operations Group have a staff serving nine groups.

“The Guard has a federal and they have a state mission,” Mickan explained. This two-part mission means at times the Guard will serve with the active Army. That happens a lot more often than most people realize. “Back in the day, the Guard stayed the Guard and the Army stayed the Army and the Reserves stayed the Reserves. Now, we are combining to the point where we are commanding and controlling each other,” Mickan said.

“When the 35th Division deployed to Baghdad two years ago now, they had active Army and Reserve underneath them. So a Guard Division was commanding and controlling brigades and battalions of Army and Reserves.

“With that, they’ve gone to a system called Rearm. It is a five-year mobilization plan. In past years, the Guard didn’t get the equipment that the active Army does. In year one, we get all the equipment they get. Then we spend three years training to deploy. After we train and prep, in year five, we’re ready for mission. We can go sooner if activated. The Guard is always ready, but it could go sooner rather than later.”

The quality of National Guard soldiers is very high because they are professionals in everyday life when they are not serving. For example, when not serving in the Guard, its truck drivers are over-the-road truck drivers. Others may work in construction. The military police work at home as sheriff’s deputies and police officers. Medical staff work as doctors, nurses, EMTs and dentists back home. These Guardsmen bring their professional skills to the Guard. “It makes our job easier for us to perform overseas,” Mickan said.

‘The active duty love to see the Guard come in, because our quality of work is outstanding,” Mickan said.

The second part of the Guard’s mission is at home, Mickan explained. “We’ve done floods, we’ve done winter storms, we’ve done tornadoes, hurricanes.”

The Guard is also part of the Homeland Security with the Homeland Response Force that can handle hazardous materials or search and rescue. It helps provide security at the Olympics, World Series, etc.

The Guard is just a small piece of the whole picture, Mickan said. “I’m not saying we’re any better than any other branch; we’re all part of the team.”

Jackson American Legion Post 158 Commander Larry Schott welcomed everyone to the ceremony. The post’s Honor Guard presented and retired the colors. Steve Meier sang the National Anthem. Post 158 Chaplain Charles Hutson gave the invocation at the beginning of the ceremony and the benediction at the end. Dave Hitt draped an empty chair with the POW/MIA cover. “Taps” was played by members of the Municipal Band.

A brunch, sponsored by the American Legion Post Auxiliary followed the ceremony at the Legion Hall.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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