The Last Full Measure

From time to time we all are prone to forgetfulness. For quite a number of us, our lives are filled – by choice – with wireless communications and never-ending deadlines. A day off in that kind of world is a valued commodity. Memorial Day has somehow transformed from its original intention to one of those treasured days off. It has become a time to relax from work, to go to the beach, to start up the barbeque, to be with family, to enjoy life.

No one can be blamed for that.

Still, it takes but a moment to reflect on the significance of Memorial Day. At 1 p.m. on Monday, May 28th, 2012, Roselle Park residents came out to take time and once again offer their thanks to those who gave their lives in defense of our country.

Joseph Accardi, Roselle Park’s mayor, offered a few words during the ceremony. He did not use his words to make a political speech, nor did he tie the day in with the current state of Roselle Park and the nation. He did not even use his words in as patriotic gesture to veterans. He spoke personally. He spoke about one man.

Paul A. Sweeney.

Most in town were not aware that Special Forces Staff Sargent Paul Sweeney was born in Roselle Park in 1971 or even that he served in the Army since 1991 or that his military career spanned from Iraq to Germany to Korea to Afghanistan. He had several commendations and awards which included the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with ‘V’ Valor, an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Ribbon, an Overseas Service Ribbon, an Army Service Ribbon, an Expert Infantryman’s Badge, a Parachutist Badge, and the Purple Heart.

The last one was awarded posthumously. Roselle Park native SSG Paul A. Sweeney was killed at the age of 32 while on a mission 6,750 miles away just north of Musa Qal’a in Afghanistan on October 30, 2003.

While many of us have been fortunate enough to not experience that knock on our door or the words “We regret to inform you”, Paul Sweeney reminds us that one way or another, those who gave what Lincoln termed as ‘the last full measure of devotion to country’ affect us. We are touched by the sacrifices made by those we have never met and we are grateful to those we can never thank enough.

Photos of the ceremony can be viewed below with an additional gallery at [In Frame], Roselle Park News’ media site (link).