It was a journey into memories, loss and service through prose by Ron Hayden at the Memorial Day Services in Gays Mills on Monday, May 26.
Hayden’s address took inspiration from family history. He comes from a long line of military service – members on both sides of his family have fought in the conflicts and wars throughout U.S. history.
Alonzo C. Hayden was the nephew of Hayden’s great-grandfather. Alonzo was amongst the massive number of casualties – between 46,000 and 51,000 –lost in the Battle of Gettysburg. Shot three times, he was buried where he fell. A friend, one of only 47 of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment Company D’s 262 soldiers to survive, took his hat back to Minnesota.
Using the poem “Freedom is not Free” to tie them together, Hayden wove in a second tale of a young boy who lost his father in Iraq.
Myles Eckert’s father was killed five weeks after Myle’s birth from the blast of an IED (improvised explosive device).
Myles' tale began at a Cracker Barrel in Maumee, Ohio eight years later. He and his family were at the restaurant for lunch on February 7, 2013. Myles was excited—he'd just found a $20 bill in the parking lot. He was thinking of the things he could buy with that money, when he saw a man in a military uniform enter the restaurant.
It made him think of his father and his plans changed. Myles wrapped the $20 in a note that read, "Dear Soldier -- my dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It's your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid.”
As Hayden noted in his address, when lives are lost in war, the loss is not just the life cut short on the battlefield. It is in the homes and lives touched by that fallen soldier.
Death is an exponential loss. When the wreaths are laid down, they commemorate not only the Alonzo Haydens, but the Myles Eckerts as well.