Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer. For most people, the three-day weekend is a time to spend at the lake or have a barbecue, but for veterans this isn’t a joyous holiday. It’s a time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Charles Simmons is a resident at Edgemere, an SQLC retirement community, and a veteran who served in the Navy for five years. Memorial Day is an emotional time for him. He thinks back to his time in the Navy and the people who didn’t get to come home. To remember the fallen, Edgemere hosted a Memorial Day lunch on May 29 at 12 p.m. Afterwards, Dave Tanner, local radio host, presented “A Tribute to the Greatest Generation,” with a musical program. The goal was to remind veterans that they and their fallen brothers and sisters are remembered on this special day. Simmons says that during every service he gets a lump in his throat when any of his friends are honored. He says even if he didn’t know the person he considers them a friend because he knows what they went through.
“It’s an unspoken bond that we all laid our lives on the line to protect others,” Simmons said. “This is a somber holiday. I don’t do the barbecues because I know what this day means. I knew these men who gave their lives. We need to remember them because we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for what they did. They truly gave everything they had for this country and we should respect that.”
Simmons always knew he wanted to be a pilot. In August of 1966 he became an aviation officer candidate, and after two years of training he was qualified as a naval aviator. The Vietnam War was in full-swing and Simmons was shipped out to Southeast Asia. His job was to support combat operations while flying the Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior. Simmons says it was a tough job and he lost friends along the way, but he also gained new ones for life. Once he was out of the Navy, he became a commercial pilot and worked for 30 years before retiring in 1999.
“During and after the war I was responsible for other’s lives,” Simmons said. “My training was crucial. If I overlooked something it was life or death. There are people who didn’t come home, and it’s hard for me to think about that because I am thankful I was able to make it back. I honored those who died protecting our country on Memorial Day. Anchors aweigh my boys, anchors aweigh!”
Simmons says he’s grateful Edgemere put together this lunch and brought in a guest speaker. He says they know the true meaning of Memorial Day. The senior living community looks for new ways to honor veterans each year and thought this would be a great fit.
“We have a lot of veterans at Edgemere and we want them to know their fallen brothers and sisters are never forgotten, and we are thankful for what they did,” said Vanessa Curtright Bowles, Edgemere sales and marketing director. “We try to do all we can to help our residents get through this day because we know it can be difficult. Having the lunch and guest speaker allows the residents to get together and remember those who gave it all for our country.”