USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman Sailors and Marines attended a cake cutting ceremony and special luncheon aboard ship May 31 in celebration of Memorial Day.
The ceremony was held on the mess decks, which gave the crew a chance to eat and interact with each other and to reflect on what it means to serve.
"We are part of the military tradition that is Memorial Day," said Capt. Joe Clarkson, Truman's commanding officer. "It's important that we honor past heroes who have served and laid the ground work for our freedom."
Although Memorial Day is only one day, Truman's crew keeps a permanent symbol aboard ship of the dedication of service members throughout U.S. history.
"We keep a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) table on the mess decks as a constant reminder of veterans that haven't made it home yet, but we'll never give up hope of their return," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SW) Alfredo Leno.
The POW/MIA table is carefully set with elements that each carry a special meaning and which remind service members of the bitter fate, sacrifice, solitude and faith of missing comrades, as well as those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our country.
"We take pride in cleaning and maintaining the POW/MIA table," said Leno. "It's the least we could do, for the price they paid."
The Memorial Day ceremony had special significance for Truman Sailors and Marines as they prepare to support troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I have friends serving in Operation Enduring Freedom," said Ensign Dusan Ilic, the photographer officer. "Helping them is what will make this deployment meaningful to me."
To celebrate Memorial Day, Truman's culinary specialists prepared a Southern style barbecue and 10,000 servings of chicken, ribs, sliders, corn-on-the-cob, potato salad and barbecue-baked beans to make the holiday special for the crew.
"We chose a barbecue menu to try and make Memorial Day as much like home for the crew as we could," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Michelle Gibson. "Of course we took out time to honor our fallen and past veterans. I come from a military family, and we take Memorial Day very seriously."
The barbecue theme was a hit with Truman crew members.
"My fondest memory of Memorial Day was a few years back. I was home in Alabama, and my entire family came together and had a barbecue," said Lance Cpl. Kel Clark, a Marine assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312. "It was the last time my whole family was together since I joined the Marine Corps."
For the crew members on board Truman this was the first of many holidays they will celebrate underway, but they understand the sacrifices that are necessary to uphold freedom and democracy around the world.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.