On the morning of Monday, May 25, Appalachian State University faculty, staff and students joined members of the public at the Veterans Memorial located adjacent to the Dougherty Administration Building for a Memorial Day ceremony. Students from the Reserve Officer Training Corps program performed the ceremonial raising of the flag, followed by remarks from Lt. Col. David Cox ’90, professor of military science of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. (Audio only)
LTC David W. Cox: Well first of all good morning and thank you for giving me the honor of speaking here today. Twenty five May 2015…Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor and remembers US men and women who died while in military service to their country. I’m going to start my remarks by giving you some numbers to think about.
116,516 military members died in service to their country in World War I. 405,399 military members died in service to their country in World War II. 54,246 military died in service to their country in Korea. 58,209 military members died in service to their country in Vietnam. 6,717 have died so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. That comes to a total of 641,087 people who have died in service to their country since WWI. That’s a lot of people.
When I use the word people, it starts to become personal. I think it’s very very important that we remember that those 641,087 people who died were someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, cousin, aunt, uncle, father or mother. I brought a gold star flag today. For those of you who don’t know what a gold star flag is, if you see this flag hanging on the front of a house, it means a member of that family has died in service to their country. I would like to direct attention to this memorial stone to my left. Thirty-eight former students, faculty or staff have died while in service to their country. That’s thirty-eight members of our Appalachian family. The men and women who’s names are etched in this stone walked on this campus, ate in the cafeteria, drove down the streets of Boone and here on this campus. Some of them may have even attended a Memorial Day Ceremony right here where we’re standing. Each of them was a real person, not just a number. When you hear a story about a real person, it gives you a connection to this day.
This morning I’m going to tell you about Captain Richard Cliff. He graduated from ASU in 2002. His name is on this stone right here to my left. Captain Richard G. Cliff Jr. 29 was killed September 29 2008 while conducting a combat recognizance patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was serving with Company B First Battalion Seventh Special Forces Group. He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in September 2008 as a member of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan. This was his third deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism and his first deployment to Afghanistan. He was a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha Team Commander. Cliff was a native of Mt. Pleasant South Carolina. He was commissioned in June 2002 after graduation from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. After serving in a variety of positions as an infantry officer he began the Special Forces Qualifications Course in 2007 and he earned the coveted Green Beret in July 2008.
These words I’m reading to you today are from his obituary. In his spare time Richie was an avid surfer with his favorite local spot being Folly Beach. He traveled to Costa Rica, Hawaii and surf spots up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Coast. He enjoyed days spent on his boat, wakeboarding with friends and hitting the slopes with his brother Eddie. Richie also climbed to the summit of Mt. Rainier in Washington State while stationed at Ft. Lewis. Richie loved life and enjoyed every day to the fullest. He had an amazing sense of humor…always playing practical jokes on his friends. His laugh was so infectious. Lucky for those around him, he laughed a lot. Richie made friends with ease, becoming friends with everyone he met. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He was driven to succeed and excelled at every endeavor. His friends describe him as loyal, kind and a born leader.
Cliff is survived by his wife Stacy and his son Richard of Sanford, NC, his mother Julie and father Richard and his brother Eddie from Mt. Pleasant SC. The reason I use Richard Cliff is because he’s an example. He was a bright young man with a bright future. I’m not trying to depress everyone. I’m trying to impress upon everyone the importance of this day. We should all be happy and grateful that there are men and women in this country who are willing to risk their life so we can live our lives in a country like the United States.
Over the past few days I’ve been trying to figure out what I could tell you about Memorial Day that you did not already know. I wanted to say something profound to make a difference to somebody out there in the audience. I drafted four or five versions of the words I was going to speak to you this morning but none of them came out right. There was really nothing wrong with the words that I wrote. What was wrong is that I was going to be talking to the wrong people. All of you here this morning know the significance and the meaning or Memorial Day. All of you come to this ceremony or one like it every Memorial Day. All of you understand how important this day is. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in the United States attended a memorial ceremony or somehow honored our fallen soldiers on this day every year? Well, at heart I’m an optimist. I believe that most Americans are patriotic and love their country. I think more Americans would come to these ceremonies if they truly understood why they are important. So few of our citizens have served or know someone who has served. They don’t really have a connection to this day. I think if they had a connection they would come.
In closing, I’m going to ask that each of you here to day tell a friend who does not really understand the significance of this day what it’s all about. Tell them about the people who gave their lives serving their country. Tell them about the families those people left behind. Tell them how important it is that we all honor and remember our fallen soldiers. Give them a connection. That concludes my remarks. Thank you.