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By Joseph Fontanazza
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) honored fallen United States military personnel during its annual Memorial Day Ceremony on May 23, 2023.
NSWCPD’s Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) representative and the ceremony’s emcee Lucas Huerta delved into Memorial Day’s history and significance after a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by NSWCPD Engineer Pete Eobbi.
“Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was conceived in the 1860s following the Civil War when local groups from the north and south would lay flowers on the graves of Civil War Soldiers who had fallen in battle,” Huerta said. “At the first celebration of Decoration Day in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, former General and future United States President James A. Garfield addressed a crowd of 5,000 that had gathered for the event.”
He added, “In 1971, Memorial Day became a Federal Holiday. Now, 154 years after the first official ceremony, we continue to gather in solemn reverence to honor those who made the greatest sacrifice in our Nation’s wars.”
Huerta’s words set the stage for NSWCPD’s VERG Champion Gary Saladino’s reading of “The Bixby Letter,” which President Abraham Lincoln penned as a condolence for Ms. Lydia Bixby, a widow who was believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War.
The letter is considered to be one of Lincoln’s most famous works and a seminal piece about honoring those who sacrificed everything for their country. The work has been recited annually during NSWCPD’s Memorial Day Ceremony for the past several years.
Following the letter’s reading, Capt. Joseph Darcy gave his first Memorial Day address as NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer to audience members attending in-person and virtually.
“For some Americans, Memorial Day marks the kickoff to summer and other outdoor activities. For other Americans like Gold Star Families, Lydia Parker Bixby, and those who lost loved ones, it has a much more somber meaning,” Darcy said. “I would like to take this moment with you to solemnly reflect on the significance of this occasion. We owe so much to the men and women who have paid the ultimate price while serving under our Nation's Flag.”
Darcy’s remarks invoked the Declaration of Independence and the valor of the men and women who gave their lives to protect its ideals.
“Since 1776, our patriots have fought to defend those ‘certain unalienable rights’ - Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Our freedom has been made possible by their resolute dedication, their tenacity, and ultimately, their sacrifice. We honor them for that sacrifice this Memorial Day,” Darcy said.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “As we gather with friends and family, let us remember we owe a debt to the heroic men and valiant women who sacrificed for us, so we can gather in the glory of our freedom.”
With the ceremony coming to a close, the National Song of Remembrance, also known as “Taps”, played as Darcy and Saladino laid a wreath to honor the fallen.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.