By EMILIE NELSON-JENSON
GILMORE CITY - When Staff Sgt. Travis Renken thinks of Memorial Day, he defines it as a day to thank and remember those who have stepped into the line of duty to help serve and protect the individuals around them.
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson-Jenson
Staff Sgt. Travis Renken speaks about his military experiences during the Memorial Day program in Gilmore City Monday morning.
That does not stop with the soldiers serving in the military, he said.
"A lot of people take Memorial Day to remember the fallen and members of the military, past and present," he said. "But I encourage you to also remember other heroes like police and firefighters. Just like us, when they get the call, they never know where they are going when that call comes out."
Renken, a native of the Gilmore City area, was the guest speaker at the Gilmore City Memorial Day program, hosted by the Harnett-Johnson American Legion and Auxiliary Post 239 at the Gilmore City-Bradgate School Monday morning.
Renken has served in various branches of the military including the National Guard, United States Army and Army Reserves since he was a junior in high school.
"People ask me why I joined, I say that's an easy answer, it's what I do," he said. "My dad did it and when I was a kid I wanted to be just like my dad."
Renken served a tour of duty in Kuwait in 2011 and 2012 working in human resources. There he experienced firsthand the impact combat can have on soldiers and the number of lives it can claim.
"Sometimes we'd get 147 reports of death in a 24-hour period," he said. "That's stuff you don't see in the news."
Renken said he has never directly seen combat on any of his deployments, but considers it an honor to be able to serve his country.
"My hat goes off to the guys in combat," he said. "They see things I don't see sitting in an office, but I am just honored to serve."
Following Renken's speech, Legion members also read the names of deceased soldiers in local cemeteries dating back as far as the Civil War.
"So few of these soldiers still have family in Gilmore City but it is great to see the number of people who come out to commemorate their sacrifices," said Don Trexel, commander of the Harnett-Johnson Post 239.