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Remember the fallen, Memorial Day speaker says

BenMast_t.jpgBOONE—For many, Memorial Day means a day off from work to shop or celebrate the arrival of summer.

Ben Mast.jpg
Ben Mast, guest speaker at Appalachian State University’s Memorial Day ceremony, said it’s everyone’s responsibility to honor those who have died in military conflicts and to tell their story of valor. (Photo by University Photographer Troy Tuttle)
Ashe County School ROTC.jpgMembers of Ashe County High School’s Junior ROTC program prepare to raise the flag. (Photo by University Photographer Troy Tuttle)ROTC Ashe County High School.jpgAshe County High School Junior ROTC members prepare to raise, then lower the flag to half-staff in honor of those who have died in service to their country. (Photo by University Photographer Troy Tuttle)Maj. Maury Williams.jpgMaj. Maury Williams salutes as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played during a Memorial Day ceremony at Appalachian State University. Williams is the executive officer and an associate professor of military science in the ROTC program at Appalachian. (Photo by University Photographer Troy Tuttle)Chancellor Ken Peacock.jpgDuring Memorial Day remarks at the university’s Veterans Memorial, Appalachian State University Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock said, “This is a special day as we pause to remember those who have given their lives for us, and especially those who are listed here and connected to Appalachian. I don’t think anyone can look at the flag at half-staff and not feel a tug in their heart and say how much they appreciate those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.” (Photo by University Photographer Troy Tuttle)

“Memorial Day remains one of our most solemn holidays, a time to pause and honor those ordinary men and women who made the extraordinary sacrifice and slipped into death’s shadow,” said U.S. Navy veteran Ben Mast. Mast spoke at Appalachian State University’s ceremony honoring those who have lost their lives in while serving in the U.S. military.

Mast spoke of times in his life when the true meaning of Memorial Day had come into sharp focus. He spoke of viewing the more than 8,000 American graves in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, Holland, in 1959.

Mast had been dispatched to Holland to broadcast a Memorial Day ceremony on Armed Forces Radio. To prepare for the broadcast he walked along the graves, a Court of Honor established for 2,000 soldiers missing in action and a reflecting pool with a statue of a woman greeting her son, and read inscribed tributes to those who had died in battle.

“It was one of the most moving experiences of my life,” he said. “And yet after I had spoken and the guest speakers had made their tributes, all that was spoken somehow didn’t seem adequate.”

Since that time, Mast visits American military cemeteries whenever he travels overseas.
Mast spoke of Watauga County residents who had died overseas while in the Armed Forces: Fred Reese, who was killed in France; Richard Minton, who was killed in Korea; and William P. Kephart and Roger Stokes, who died at Guadalcanal in the Pacific Ocean.

“There are many other local fallen heroes whose story of valor need to be told, when and where they fought and how they died for our country,” Mast said. “Each of them unhesitatingly went off to serve – not for glory or fame or conquest – but because they had a job to do.”

Mast quoted former President Ronald Reagon who said on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, “Let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions we understand what they died for.”

Mast is a 1955 graduate of Appalachian and a Watauga County native. He served four years as a broadcast specialist with the U.S. Army’s Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in New York and in Frankfurt, Germany, with assignments to Berlin, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. He also served 24 years as a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence.