Atkinson: Remembering a 'true American' in Atkinson
David Purcell, 3, of New York attended Atkinson's Memorial Day parade on Monday while visiting family in Atkinson. (JASON SCHREIBER)
ATKINSON — Maj. Jeremy Graczyk was among the war heroes who were remembered Monday during the town's annual Memorial Day parade, which was dedicated to the Atkinson native who died last year.
“Jeremy was a true American,” grand marshal Donald Latham told the crowd that gathered at Dow Common to remember the 33-year-old Graczyk and others who served their country with honor and dignity, including retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Owen Fairbanks Jr., 93, who died in February.
A longtime Atkinson resident, Fairbanks served 32 years in the Navy and was a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Graczyk died last July 12 in a BASE jumping accident while on a brief leave from the military in Switzerland. BASE jumping is a recreational sport that involves using a parachute to jump from fixed objects.
Graczyk, who joined the Marines in 1999, was deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan and earned numerous medals for his achievements. On May 24, Graczyk was posthumously awarded two bronze stars, one which included the combat “V” device for valor.
In 2010, Graczyk was also credited with helping to save the driver of a minivan who became trapped after a crash in the Mexican desert.
War heroes don't always die in battle or at the hands of the enemy, but that “doesn't diminish their status as heroes,” Cathy Thompson said while delivering a greeting during the ceremony that followed the parade from the Town Hall to Dow Common.
Latham reminded those in attendance that Memorial Day isn't about barbecues and store sales. He urged people to take a moment to honor and pay tribute to those in the military who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“So many young men and woman have gone before us, putting themselves in harm's way to protect our freedom and way of life,” he said.
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