MOORE — Former state representative Gary Banz thinks Memorial Day is about more than remembering.
For him, it’s a time to “speak up” so that the sacrifices of service men and women can be remembered forever. Banz, who served in the Army from 19680-70 and Army Reserve from 1982-88, was the guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Moore.
“It’s time for us to speak up and make sure their sacrifice was not forgotten,” Banz said. “We’re speaking up for those who have made the investment.”
The annual gathering organized by Moore American Legion Post 184 and the Bruce January Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars brought hundreds out to the park. Some were there to pay respects and others to honor family members.
Tony McGrew, the Moore VFW commander, said while Memorial Day is about remembering those who are no longer with us, it is not considered a sad day.
“Today is not about the number killed, the sorrow we felt from that loss; it’s not about mourning,” McGrew said. “As General [George] Patton said, ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.’”
Some of those men have hailed from Moore. In the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the list includes Daniel Galvan (Afghanistan) and Melvin Blazer (Iraq), who died in 2004; Trevor Roberts (Iraq), who died in 2007; and David Wright (Afghanistan), who died in 2009.
Banz noted that Moore is unique in its connection to the military. Its close proximity to and interaction with Tinker Air Force Base means service men and women are consistently seen in the community.
But that’s not true everywhere, Banz said.
“You see the people in military uniforms on a daily basis,” he said.” For most of the nation, however, it’s a military at war and a nation at the mall. They just don’t see it.”
Banz spent some of his time as a legislator working to make them more visible in the community. The Republican from Midwest City once chaired the Military and Veterans Affairs committee at the State Capitol.
On Monday, he told part of the story on Oklahoma’s impact in D-Day, which will have been 75 years ago on June 6. Banz said he has visited the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., where 4,000 stars represent 100 American soldiers who died in that conflict.
“It’s overwhelming when you stop to think about it,” Banz said. “In fact, it’s almost impossible to understand the investment of life that was given in the name of our freedom in just that conflict alone. That’s just a number unless you have someone in your family who is represented by one of those stars.”
One of those stars represents a young man by the name of Vicenzo Fiore. He was on the 82nd Airborne Division’s plane number 9, which parachuted soldiers onto the beaches of Normandy during D-Day.
“He was in the first wave and there were five waves just for that division,” Banz said. “He survived the jump, but on June 10, he was killed in action.”
In 2006, Fiore’s family approached Benz as they were trying to confirm something they had suspected for years. At that time, there was a Douglas C-47 at the Oklahoma County Fairgrounds that was to be moved and parked at the Will Rogers Metro Technology Center campus.
Private Fiore had been in that plane.
“That plane came of the line at the Douglas plant in Midwest City in March of 1944,” Banz said. “In that war, that family gave up an uncle, a brother and a son. So for that family, this day has a very special meaning.”
It is now on display at Joe B. Barnes Park in Midwest City.
After Banz spoke, the VFW and American Legion remembered one of their own. Dean Ford died earlier this year, having volunteered as a member of the American Legion Post 184 for several years.
Ford was in the National Guard and Air Force between 1951-64, and he received multiple medals for his service in the Korean War. On Monday, he would have been apart of the organizing the Memorial Day ceremony.
Neva Ford, Dean’s widow, laid a wreath for him at the memorial. That was followed by the 21 gun salute and playing of “Taps.”
“We must continue to remind Americans that there is no freedom without bravery,” McGrew said, “and those men and women we honor today were brave when it counted the most.”