Fallen heroes remembered at Dover’s Veterans Triangle

Flag at the Dover Triangle at half staff Monday. (Special To The Delaware State) News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — In Col. Dawn Lancaster’s line of work she has become accustomed to treating nearly every day as if it’s Memorial Day.

That’s because Col. Lancaster is the Mortuary Affairs Operation Commander at Dover Air Force Base. She is no stranger to seeing the results of sacrifice and tragedy first-hand.

Col. Lancaster served as the guest speaker at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Triangle in downtown Dover on Monday, where the names of 337 Dover-area military veterans who have died over the past year were read aloud and remembered.

The ceremony was a collaborative effort by Delaware Veterans Post No. 2 and the American Legion’s Walter Fox Post 2.

“It’s nice that the nation represents and honors the sacrifices (of military veterans) on this day,” Col. Lancaster said. “Memorial Day has an amazing history and to honor those who we brought here (to Dover Air Force Base) this past year and through the many years at Dover was special.

“It’s special to get up here and talk about it some and to remember them and remember their faces and their names and to be able to have a moment to honor them in front of the people who understand … it’s just overwhelming.”

Col. Dawn Lancaster, Mortuary Affairs Operations Commander at Dover AFB speaking to crowd attending the Memorial Day event in Dover. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The ceremony, which took place at the convergence of Loockerman and State streets and Kings Highway, drew a large crowd despite cool, overcast weather.

Wayne Hicks, chaplain for the Department of Delaware American Legion, bookended the one hour, 15-minute event with Invocation and Benediction prayers.

Anna Lopez, commander of Delaware Veterans Post 2, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before Lori Christiansen sang the National Anthem.

Ms. Lopez and Mike Windows, commander of the American Legion Post 2, alternated during the most poignant part of the ceremony — the reading of the names of each veteran in Kent County that died over the past year.

Ms. Lopez noted the significance of the day, saying every one of the 337 names that were read have their own unique personal story and it was nice to recognize them and say “Thank you” for their service.

“It’s extremely important,” Ms. Lopez said. “This is one of the biggest events of the year as far as memorializing our fallen comrades. We always have a lot of participation every year and it’s just our heartfelt way of paying our respects.

“It’s hard when you know several of the names that are on (the list of the deceased).”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper was in attendance as was Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and other dignitaries.

Sen. Carper served as a Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy from 1968 until 1973, when he flew a P-3 Orion as a Tactical Coordinator/Mission Commander and saw active duty in the Vietnam War.

He paid tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“They’re made heroes by sacrifices abroad, and the toil of generation after generation of men and women who served our country in uniform,” Sen. Carper said. “I would suggest the best way to honor our dead is the way that we treat those who are living and are serving us today.”

Mayor Christiansen then introduced Col. Lancaster, who went on to give a moving speech.

“It may sound weird starting a Memorial Day speech in America with a quote from a British Prime Minister, but I think William Gladstone said it best, ‘Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals,’” Col. Lancaster said.

Following Ms. Lancaster’s speech, representatives from nearly 20 groups presented floral tributes in the Veterans Triangle and offered up salutes.

The Dover Air Force Base Honor Guard then performed a 21-gun salute that echoed off the buildings downtown before Taps was played and Commanders Lopez and Windows joined together to raise the American flag.

Dover Fire Pipes and Drums concluded the ceremony with a stirring rendition of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” with one of its members walking off into the distance alone while playing his bagpipes, symbolizing those veterans who have died.

While Memorial Day might seem to be nearly every day to Col. Lancaster, honoring those veterans who have lost their lives never gets old to her — and she said it never will.

“We’re here today to honor our service members and to honor the sacrifices they have made in honor of duty of our country and to recognize their service to this nation’s ideals, so that their sacrifice and loss will never be forgotten or in vain,” Col. Lancaster said.

“We as a nation honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for what we cherish and often take for granted — freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

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