PARKERSBURG – For more than five decades, area veterans have been honored during the Memorial Day weekend at the annual Sunset Memorial Funeral Home and Memory Gardens Memorial Day Ceremony.
Speaking at Saturday’s ceremony was Jamie Summerlin, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who is now an author, ultra marathon runner and motivational speaker. A native of Braxton County, W.Va., he now lives in Morgantown with his wife, who also a Marine Corps veteran, and two children.
Two years ago Summerlin completed a 3,452 mile, 100-day cross-country run starting at Coos Bay, Ore., and ending at Rehoboth Beach, Del. He completed the last 100-mile leg of his run from Annapolis, Md., to Delaware in 24 hours.
On Saturday, Summerlin said he was honored to speak among people who had served or are continuing to serve.
“We honor those who have sacrificed friendships, loved ones, family members, and at times, ultimately themselves for a much greater cause,” he said. “The freedoms we enjoy in this great country, we remember they gave their lives so others might live.”
Summerlin said in his journey he met with several who had served, their family members and the family members of those who gave their lives. He believes many no longer recognize the meaning and importance of Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day, in my estimation, has ultimately lost the focus and respect it deserves and was originally intended for,” he said. “It was not established to recognize the opening of the swimming pool, the first barbecue of the summer or the three-day sales at the mall that we so hear about all the time. Memorial Day was established to honor and remember all members of the United States military who gave their lives defending this great nation,” he said.
Summerlin said it did not matter if the battles were supported at home or entailed a greater loss of life to stop people who had to be stopped.
“They fought because they loved America,” he said. “They loved our freedom and loved those back home praying for their quick return.”
Summerlin said his children were with him during the trek and he used it to show them the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“On this journey they went with me to VFW posts and VA hospitals, they’ve shaken hands and got a chance to say ‘thank you’ to so many heroes along the way,” he said. “This was a lesson unlike no other we had experienced, one where we connected much deeper and will not forget sharing with them.”
Summerlin said Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives and a time to reflect on their great sacrifices.
“They paid the price with their lives because their nation needed them to at that time,” he said. “Yes, we mourn the loss of our loved ones, and those we have never met, who have paid that ultimate price.
“But, we must be grateful for their sacrifice and honor them by remembering them, not by what they did for those of us they loved, but for those they would never met.”