Each year a Memorial Day program is held in the gym of the Clinton High School following the annual Memorial Day parade. Each year a special person is asked to give the address to the audience.

For the past three years, a high school student has been invited to speak. This year, Ashton McFall, a junior at Clinton High School, was asked to speak. Ashton was recommended by several teachers at Clinton High School.

Principal Janae Gile agreed she would be a good choice. Ashton’s brother, Andrew McFall-Halverson, was killed in the line of duty in Iraq on Oct. 9, 2004, just one day short of his 20th birthday.

When Ashton was asked to speak, she first discussed this with her mother, and they decided that she should do it. Ashton was comfortable with the idea of public speaking, but was worried about getting emotional and breaking down in front of everyone, but she knew this was important, and she wanted to do it to honor her brother.

Ashton explained, “As I began the speech, I was looking up at the audience from time to time, but then I saw my grandpa with tears in his eyes, and I couldn’t look up anymore after that. I just looked at my paper so I wouldn’t cry.”

The speech Ashton delivered was received well by all in attendance. In it, she explained what Memorial Day means to her. The speech, in its entirety, follows.

Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming here on this Memorial Day. My name is Ashton McFall, and I am a high school student here at Clinton High School. I was chosen to speak to you today because my brother, PFC Andrew McFall-Halverson, is a fallen hero.

After his death, my mother and I joined an organization called “Being There, Reaching Out,” which helps families cope with the death of a loved one in war or due to war. Today, we are here to celebrate Memorial Day, which too often is all about having a three-day weekend or a sale at a store.

But Memorial Day is a time to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to our country. These are courageous servicemen who died for freedom. Memorial Day is a solemn day, but it can be made joyful with wonderful memories and the love for our country and the people who died for each and every one of us.

I would like to tell you a little about my brother. When he was 18 years old, Andrew became a Marine in the Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division. I did not know him personally because he died when I was very young, but I hear stories from my family, and his old friends.

I’d like to share some with all of you. When I started going to school, Andrew told me that if anyone picked on me, tell them that I have three older brothers and one is a Marine.

One of the nicknames that was given to him when he was young and stuck with him throughout his military career was “Jabberjaw.” When he was little he would never stop talking, and always had something to say.

When he joined the Marines his brothers in arms would call him “the Jaw.” Whenever they were anxious they would look to him for comfort. When he was in Iraq he wrote a poem about what it was like being in the military overseas.

I am a Knight and his Hum V my horse

I wake every morning not knowing my course

Run here, go there

To fight an enemy I can’t see clear

And everyday God knows I have my doubts

Not understanding what’s this all about

To help a people who don’t want me in their land

And I know they wish I’d lay forever in this sand

The twisted grin on their face as they hide in the dark

And I can only pray, “God don’t let me miss my mark”

I am the few, the proud, a Marine

Yet all my accomplishments my loved ones have never seen

A heart of stone and a face weathered by the storm

With all the dreams of a boy but in a uniform

My story will probably never be told

But know what I’ve been through the average man would fold

When you lay down for bed every night

Know I’ve offered my life and am the first to fight

For those I love I’m out her doing my very best

I’ve given my life to protect and I’ll never rest

Born to fight, trained to kill

I’m ready to die but never will

Andrew died a day before his 20th birthday, so we got the horrible news on his birthday. I answered the door when the Marines came. I didn’t know what was happening at the time.

All I remember was my mother holding me so tight that I could barely breathe. I went to go get my older brother, Michael, who was in the shower, to tell him about the strangers in uniform. That day, we became a Gold Star family. To some, a Gold Star is given when they accomplish something.

To others, it is a symbol of the loved one that they have lost. I have a Gold Star, and I wish I didn’t. Memorial Day was created for the families who lost their loved ones. Families sacrifice their loved ones.

When they are gone the pain is still there. Right now, I am talking about the heroes who gave up their lives, but there are soldiers that still live and should be honored, too. I believe that Memorial Day does not just focus on those who are gone, but those that are still living with the trauma of war.

There are soldiers that live with the death of their fallen brothers, the long-term effects of war, like PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Never forget fallen soldiers, but do not forget the ones that are alive today.

After Andrew’s death, my brother, Michael, began writing poems about Andrew and the Marines. I would like to end today with one of Michael’s poems.

These men show no fear as they board the plane

They go to fight an enemy that has no name

These men are not destined for fame

They head off to battle where there are no games

These men of war climb into their hummers once more

They move through the streets with the pedal to the floor

These men have seen war for what it is: gore

But they fight for each other, this they believe to the core

These men climb into their planes and take to the sky

They watch each other as they fly

These men fly into combat without asking why

They fight for their brothers and try not to die

These men climb into their boats and take to the seas

They sail where they are needed with ease

These men stay alert and watch the water’s breeze

These men will watch each other, this is their expertise

These men will fight where they are needed on the land, in the air, or on the


These men must go to war and leave their sons and daughters

These men of war are not all that special, most don’t have a vawter

But these men have not met an enemy that they cannot slaughter

These men board a plane to head for war

These men are knocking at death’s door

These men of war are hardcore

When these men head off to battle they let out a mighty roar

These men of war fight like they are machines

These men of war will get the job done by any means

These men of war are unseen

Who are these men of war? They are Marines

Memorial Day speech III


Andrew McFall-Halverson, was killed in the line of duty in Iraq on Oct. 9, 2004, just one day short of his 20th birthday.