Georgia honors fallen soldiers; Gov. Kemp salutes officer shot in search for Bowe Bergdahl
By David Pendered
The nation’s mourning for fallen soldiers will be mostly private this year. The governor did join a ceremony for a Loganville soldier who died from injuries sustained while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, a now-disgraced former officer who pleaded guilty to deserting his post in Afghanistan.
Even Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the public this Memorial Day. Families must show passes to enter the grounds. Each person must show proof of a mask, and the family is permitted to visit only the graves of relatives, according to a report on arlingtoncemetery.mil.
The Marietta National Cemetery was compelled by COVID-19 to cancel the major, traditional event hosted there by the National Memorial Day Association of Georgia. The keynote speaker was to have been Donna Rowe, a retired Army captain who served as a nurse in Vietnam and was the first woman inducted in the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
Gov. Brian Kemp recognized Memorial Day with an executive order calling for the flags of the United States and Georgia to be flown at half-staff until noon on Monday, then raised to full staff. The order applies to flags on all state-owned grounds. The order reads in part:
- “For families across the United States, there are difficult emotions associated with days like today. They represent great sadness and hope, grief and celebration, conflict and peace. Although we cannot erase your pain, please know that we will always stand by you. We will honor your loved ones’ sacrifice. We will permanently etch their names into our hearts and minds, and we will lift you up in our thoughts and our prayers….”
Kemp joined in a private ceremony May 21 to add one name to the memorial wall at Clay National Guard Center, in Marietta.
The name is Ret. National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen. Allen’s name brings to 43 the number of service members honored on that wall.
Allen was 46 years old when died Oct. 12, 2019. That was 10 years after his unit was ambushed in Afghanistan while searching in 2009 for Bowe Bergdahl, the former sergeant who pleaded guilty to desertion with intention to shirk duty, and misbehavior before the enemy.
Allen was in a unit seeking information about the missing Bergdahl when Allen was shot in the head by a sniper, according to a report in by cbsnews.com. Allen suffered severe brain trauma and was left largely paralyzed and unable to talk.
Unknown at the time was that Bergdahl had walked off his post. He was captured by the Taliban and held five years before he was brought home in an exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration arranged the exchange. Bergdahl pleaded guilty in 2017.
Shannon Allen had cared for her husband for a decade after a bullet wound in his head left him unable to speak, bound to a wheelchair and unable to hug his wife and daughter – a daughter who would climb into his wheelchair to be close to her father. A video tribute to his life and service was created and posted on his obituary by Tim Stewart Funeral Home.
The day after Allen died, Shannon Allen posted a message on her business Facebook page. Her company, Wreaths by Shannon, makes handmade, decorative wreaths.
The message reads in full:
- I’m heartbroken to let you all know that my husband passed away peacefully yesterday morning, with his family by his side.
- “Over ten years ago, he sustained a severe head injury while serving In Afghanistan, which caused him lifelong health problems. These past few months, he has faced some significant illnesses, and his body was finally ready to rest.
- “I will be unable to respond to messages / requests at this time, but plan to resume orders and communications in the next week or so.
- “Thank you for your love and understanding.”
Kemp observed, in remarks reported by dvidshub.net:
- “To the family and friends of retired Master Sergeant Mark Christopher Allen and the countless families around our state and around our country who have lost loved ones, thank you for your bravery and resilience.
- “We cannot imagine the loss and the challenges that you all have faced. But I can promise you that as we observe this Memorial Day, your fellow Georgians and Americans join you in honoring the memory of your loved one and their sacrifice.”
The center where the wall that honors Allen and the other soldiers is named in honor of former Gen. Lucius Clay. Clay was a native of Marietta who served as the military governor of Germany after World War II. Clay is best known for orchestrating the Berlin Airlift, which credited with saving Berliners from starvation resulting from a Soviet blockade in 1948 during the Cold War.