Today I had the honor of carrying the Marine Corps Colors in the Pentwater Memorial Day Parade. There were over thirty veterans marching in the parade, from WWII veterans, to Iraq vets like myself, and several Korean War and Vietnam vets as well.

Tim White - Memorial Day Photos

Memorial Day Parade 2010 - Pentwater, MI

The turnout was phenomenal, and it warmed my heart to see so many come out to remember our fallen. We marched through town, carrying the colors of our respective services, with Old Glory leading the way. A drummer kept time, and we marched in step to the accompaniment of cheering and whistling onlookers.

We made our way to the marina, where a few words were spoken, a moment of silence was observed, and a wreath was laid in Pentwater Lake. The rifle squad from the Pentwater VFW fired a 21 gun salute, and we made our way to the Pentwater Village Green.

At the Village Green, veterans from the crowd were asked to join those in ranks already assembled. About 15-20 men and women from several generations came out to join us as the national anthem was played. The Pentwater marching band played a rousing military melody, and my spine stiffened with pride at the notes of the Marine Hymn. A veteran gave a speech, another moment of silence was observed, and as we departed, you could hear “Thank You” and “God Bless You” being said from every direction.

Finally, we headed out to the Pentwater cemetery, where Taps was played. After all these years, those magical notes still get me a bit misty-eyed, and today was no exception. A local clergyman led us in prayer, and we laid a wreath at the war memorial in the cemetery.

Memorial Day has always had special significance to me. I began playing Taps at funerals when I was about 10 years old. My Grandfather, a Korean War Era Marine, was the chaplain for his VFW post. He used to take me along to funerals and have me play. Later in life, as a Marine, it became even more significant, as I learned the stories of the heroes who gave all to defend freedom.

But it was in 2006 that Memorial Day really became personal. I lost several good friends in the fall of 2006 and early 2007. They were fellow Marines, Brothers, who are greatly missed. Men like Troy Nealy, Minhee Kim, Luis Castillo, and several others. While each of their lost lives hurt, one was particularly personal for me.

On Feb 19, 2007, Brett Witteveen died in Iraq, on patrol in Fallujah, with Alpha Co. 1/24 Marines. Brett was a great friend, and like a little brother to me. I remember when Brett used to come by my house, put on my pack, and talk about joining the Marines someday. I was so proud of him when he eventually did.  He was just 20 years old when he passed. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and miss him terribly.

Memorial to Brett Witteveen in Grand Rapids, MI

I hope everyone took at least a few minutes today to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many veterans. Without those that have come and gone before us, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have today. In closing, I wish to pay tribute to my grandfather, SGT Robert P. White, USMC. I miss you, Pop.