It’s been 18 years since Ernest C. Toliver, a Vietnam veteran, passed away.
But his wife, Emily G. Toliver, honors him every Memorial Day.
Monday, she participated in a ceremony at Fort Jackson by laying a wreath in front of the Andrew Jackson monument on post. Ernest Toliver served 14 years in the Air Force.
“It’s a special honor to be able to come out and pay respect for what he believed in,” said Toliver, who is a member of the Gold Star Wives.
About 100 people gathered Monday morning in a courtyard filled with monuments inside Fort Jackson’s Gate #1 to remember U.S. service members who have died. Shots from artillery cannons thundered across the Army post just before a bugler blew Taps.
Maj. Gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson’s commanding general, delivered a speech that touched on the themes of sacrifice and honor. He reminded the audience that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were putting themselves at risk at the very minute he was speaking.
“Some, even as we speak, are making the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
But Milano said the day should be celebrated because of the pride the United States has in its freedom. It is a day to celebrate life and liberty, he said.
“What could be a more fitting tribute to our men and women who gave themselves in service than to gather at the beginning of a season of warmth?” Milano said.
Myra Ritter, another member of the Gold Star Wives, said she found comfort in the ceremony. Her husband, Sgt. Samuel L. Ritter Jr., 52, died in July 2004, after serving 26 years in the S.C. Army National Guard.
“It makes me sad but happy at the same time to see other people come out here,” Ritter said.
“Our soldiers are not forgotten.”
Fort Jackson’s Memorial Day service is an annual tradition for retired Army Maj. J.R. Jones, 87, and his daughter-in-law, Carolina Jones.
After the service, they looked at a monument to World War II as J.R. Jones retold a few stories from his time in the war. He served in the Pacific with the 37th Division and in Europe with the 17th Airborne Division. He enlisted but went to officer candidate school midway through the war.
“Memories,” J.R. Jones said. “I still want to be a part of this because so many of my buddies are gone.”