Memorial Day: Dayton honors servicemembers at National Cemetery

Donald King, of Piqua, pays his respects to his father, a Korean war veteran at the National Cemetery in Dayton on Memorial Day. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF
Caption
Donald King, of Piqua, pays his respects to his father, a Korean war veteran at the National Cemetery in Dayton on Memorial Day. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

James P. White Sr. and Donald R. Mickler, Sr. share a common bond in their loss.

Both of their sons, James Jr, who died at age 19, and Donald Jr., who died at age 29, were Army soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan.

Both soldiers are buried at the Dayton National Cemetery where their families laid a wreath together Monday.

Their sons — and countless other service members — were remembered Monday at Memorial Day services at the top of a hill surrounded by thousands of white headstones on the grounds of the sprawling cemetery with veterans who served in conflicts since the Revolutionary War.

James White Sr., 53, of Troy, said his son was motivated to serve after the Sept.11, 2001, attacks.

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“I spoke to him, me and his mother spoke to him about it very seriously, and that’s what he wanted to do so we supported that,” he said.

Donald and Gloria Mickler of Dayton, have never forgotten their son’s service.

“It means a lot to us,” said Donald Mickler, 61, a Marine Corps veteran. “He’s a fine soldier and we love him, and we miss him.”

Col. Bradley McDonald, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base installation commander, said he always carries one coin with him at all times representing Gold Star families, or those who have lost a family member in war. The coin was given to him by a mother who had lost her son “and encouraged me to remember him and as a commander in the United States Air Force to take care of the airmen out there that are continuing to fight.”

McDonald, who spoke to about 400 at the service, urged listeners to remember and show reverence to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“This is real life,” he said. “These are family members and friends, brothers and sisters-in-arms that have gone before us and that demand, deserve and respect our remembrance today.”

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Noting the nation and the Air Force have been in continuous combat operations since 1990, he emphasized the importance of resiliency for those who serve today.

“We are asking of today’s generation of airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and women to do more, to be deployed away from their families more, and it puts them at risk,” he said.

In the Miami Valley, more than 2,800 service members have lost their lives since World War II.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 99 people from the Miami Valley have died, he said. The cemetery has more than 54,000 grave sites, with about 1,000 added every year.

“To be on this hallowed ground today, to look out on these grave sites of those that have gone before us, that takes resilience,” he said.

Gold Star families in the Miami Valley will have a public memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2 in the Protestant Chapel, building 118 on Ohio Street on the campus of the Dayton VA Medical Center.

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