Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many of The Football Educator’s readers might know that I’m an Air Force Academy graduate, Class of 1984. Most of my time as a commissioned Air Force officer was spent coaching football back at my Alma mater. But I did have the honor to be stationed in Berlin, Germany during the Cold War as a Signals Intelligence Officer with the 6912 ESG from 1986-1988. My family wasn’t one of former military servicemen. In fact it was the chance to play Division IA football that led me to the Air Force Academy, and thus it was football that introduced me to the military.
Over the years I’ve had classmates, friends, and even athletes that I had the pleasure to coach, pass away as a result of their service to our country. They are gone, but truly not forgotten.
The meaning of Memorial Day
I want to introduce you to Marine Cpl. David M. Sonka of Parker, Colorado. (Parker is where I live today). Sonka attended Chaparral High School and was a wrestling and track athlete for the Wolverines. I’m sure like most young men brought up in Colorado he had a love for the outdoors and was a fan of the Denver Broncos.
He became a multi-purpose canine handler and after joining the Marine Corps in August 2008, moved into the Special Operations Command in 2012. He attended Military Police School in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, and upon graduation attended the Military Working Dog Handler Basic Course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Sonka’s personal decorations include a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon.
On May 4, 2013, Sonka and his K-9 partner “Flex”, along with Staff Sgt. Eric Christian of Warwick, New York were killed during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Farah province. Sonka’s death was the result of an “insider” attack and “Flex” was killed while attempting to save his handler. David Sonka was just 23 years old.
This Memorial Day I ask that you take a moment to remember a friend or family member that made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have today. If you don’t have any fallen friends or family members, then take a moment to remember David Sonka and “Flex”. As both Americans and NFL football fans we owe them a great deal of gratitude on this Memorial Day 2013.
Marine Cpl. David M. Sonka of Parker, Colorado, may be gone, but he is truly not forgotten.