Community Military

Memorial Day ceremony honors the fallen

Over the years, Memorial Day has taken on a different meaning for Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton.

“When I was a kid, Memorial Day was the unofficial start to summer. It was graduation weekend; it was barbecues,” said Stanton, commanding general of the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon at the May 29 Memorial Day observance at the Veterans of All Wars monument at Fourth and Broad Streets. “It still is, and frankly, it needs to be because that’s what those who have fallen fought for. But now it takes on a very different relevance.”

On Memorial Day, Americans take time to remember those who’ve given their lives in service to their country. The observance dates back to the Civil War era and was first known as Decoration Day – a day to decorate the graves of those who died while serving.

Now, Memorial Day is personal for Stanton, who highlighted the memory of four men he’d served with during his career.

The lives of Spc. Rel Rivago, Staff Sgt. Bryan Bolander, Capt. Jimmy Adamouski and Spc. Ken Casica, although cut short in the line of duty, continue to impact Stanton’s.

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“Lives dedicated to ensuring we continue with our graduations, our barbecues and our family gatherings,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton at the 2023 Memorial Day observance May 29. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Rivago, he said, always had a smile on his face no matter what. Rivago died in November 2003 after an ambush. Bolander gave 110% and inspired others. He was one who “earned your respect and trust.” He died on his fourth tour in Iraq just two weeks before his planned leave to get married. Adamouski graduated from West Point and was a “friend to anyone who knew him,” and Casica was the “nicest soldier in the entire company.”

 “I highlight these four because I served alongside them,” he said.

Stanton encouraged those attending the ceremony to honor the fallen in the way they live.

“Live life today and everyday knowing you have life, liberty and the ability to pursue happiness. You have the ability to contribute to and shape a more perfect union. We ride in wake of fallen heroes to be positive with the opportunities with which we have been blessed. And this is how we honor our fallen. This sets us aside as the United States of America,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), who also spoke at the ceremony, said Memorial Day has personal meaning for him as well.

A veteran salutes as a three-volley salute is rendered. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Allen played high school football with three men who served in Vietnam. Carl Olsen played right guard and volunteered for the military after he graduated. He died in Vietnam. Allene also played football with Larry Price and Sonny Jones, who returned but both were injured during their service.

The ceremony, organized by members of the Augusta Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars, included a three-volley salute, the playing of Taps and Gary Hassan playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Members of multiple veteran-related organizations attended the event.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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