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G.G. Sweet Memorial Day service in Pahrump draws dozens

While for some Memorial Day may bring to mind thoughts of the unofficial start of summer, picnics, barbecues and fun times, for many others it is a somber and solemn day meant to recognize and show appreciation for the men and women who have lost their lives serving in the U.S. armed forces.

In Pahrump, Memorial Day once again included a ceremony at the G.G. Sweet Memorial Park, where Marine Corps Maj. Roger Chaput has been organizing and overseeing the service for the past 19 years.

Kicking off in patriotic style, the event started with the playing of the national anthem, followed by an opening prayer from Pastor John Biggs of Saved By Grace Lutheran Church.

“On this Memorial Day we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings,” Biggs prayed before a crowd of several dozen veterans and civilians. “Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish and for the security of our land. We thank you for those who have served in the armed forces of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.

“Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me,” Biggs continued. “Thank you for those who have given their lives so those who live in other countries might experience freedom from tyranny. Thank you Lord for a day set apart not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.”

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by a member of the local Boy Scouts Troop #774, which was followed by retired U.S. Marine Corps Major Tim Callahan, who took to the microphone, providing an overview of the history of G.G. Sweet and the memorial park.

“G.G. Sweet was a career Marine who served from 1938 to 1958,” Callahan detailed. “He was a combat veteran from World War II… He was also a veteran of the Korean War. This park is dedicated to the members of 3rd Platoon, Able Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, who fought in Korea from 1950 to 1951.”

Callahan then spoke of the intense bond that was formed between Sweet and his fellow service members, including Chaput. When Sweet passed away in 2010, Chaput made the decision to honor his longtime friend by dedicating himself to carrying on Sweet’s commitment to hold an annual Memorial Day ceremony. However, it was announced that this year’s ceremony may be the last at which Chaput will put in an appearance, as his health requires rest.

“Every year since 2010, Major Chaput, who lives out of state, has planned, organized, paid for and held an annual ceremony at this park,” Callahan detailed. “This is a very special year for the park. This may be the last ceremony that Major Chaput will hold. His health concerns dictate that he should take a break after nearly 20 years of ceremony service.”

With the sounds of vigorous applause ringing through the cool morning air, Chaput added his thoughts, telling the audience, “I tried to figure out what I should say today because so many Memorial Days we hear the same thoughts… and I was looking for something that maybe could bring us closer to the real, true Memorial Day.”

Chaput then relayed a story written by a high school student in the late 1940s regarding her brother, who was taken as a prisoner of war in World War II. The story related the horrors that the young student’s brother had suffered alongside his fellow prisoners, experiences that drew expressions of grief and even a few tears from the watching audience.

After three and a half years as a prisoner, her brother was finally rescued. Underscoring the horrific treatment that he received while imprisoned, the student explained that her brother, a large man at over 200 pounds prior to his service, weighed just 85 pounds when he was found by American troops.

That is the reality of the dangers and peril those who served in the military have faced and what troops still face today. That is why remembering and honoring those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice, which is the true meaning behind Memorial Day, is so important.

Capping off the ceremony was a rifle salute conducted by Marines from the Inspector-Instructor Staff, Las Vegas, and Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, followed by the playing of the Navy and Marine hymns and the performance of “Taps.” When the ceremony commenced, attendees were invited to take a look around the memorial park and the accompanying museum before enjoying a brunch and the camaraderie of a morning spent with fellow patriots.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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