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Honoring heroes and their families

BOONE—Fallen service members and their families were remembered during a Memorial Day observance at Appalachian State University.

“The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities,” said speaker Jim Bryan, landscape superintendent at Appalachian. “They possessed courage, pride, determination, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause greater than oneself.”

View larger imageOfficers from the Army ROTC program at Appalachian State University prepare to raise and then lower the flag to half-staff during a Memorial Day ceremony held on campus. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)
View larger imageJim Bryan from Appalachian State University talked about the impact military service has on family members during a Memorial Day ceremony on campus. His father and four brothers served in the military, representing more than 80 years of service to the country. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)
View larger imageJoe Bryan, left, and his sisters Betty Norris, center, and Barbara Jackson, pause at the Veterans Memorial at Appalachian State University. Bryan is a member of the N.C. National Guard. He, his father and three brothers were deployed overseas during their military careers. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)

Bryan also spoke of the courage and faith family members must possess when family members are deployed overseas. “We have awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them to honor them for their bravery,” he said. “But nothing can ever replace the hole left by a fallen service member. And no number of medals and ribbons can comfort the ones left behind.”

Bryan’s father and four brothers served in the military – representing a combined 81.5 years of service — from his father’s service in World War II to a brother’s service in Desert Storm.

Bryan told of their experiences, including that of a brother who was shot down in Vietnam while a crew chief in a UH-1 helicopter and who was later rescued from a rice paddy. Another brother was on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestall, which caught fire in 1967 while in the Gulf of Tonkin off the Vietnam coast.

Bryan, who was a teenager at the time, said he and his family spent several anxious hours listening to radio reports about the fire that was caused when a rocket on an F-4 Phantom misfired igniting a fire that burned for more than 13 hours, killing 134 and injuring 161.

“The waiting time to hear news in a time like this is so agonizing,” Bryan said. Two days later, Bryan’s parents received a telegraph that their son was unharmed. “We were so very thankful to hear the good news, but I couldn’t help but think about other family members whose loved ones did not come back alive. During a time such as this, all we can do is hold onto our faith and to each other and to keep going.”

Bryan said Memorial Day provides a time to honor service members, remember their achievements, their courage, dedication and their sacrifice.

“They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting,” he said. “They were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times.”