When his grandfather moved to the United States after World War II, he proudly flew the American flag at his home, a gesture of appreciation for a country that had sacrificed so many throughout all of its wars.

That appreciation for countless sacrifices is often lacking today, said Brian Folco, a Marine, Gulf War veteran and Greenwood police officer.

Folco’s family has a long history of service, reaching back to the Civil War. Both of his grandfathers fought in World War II — one for the United States and one for Germany — and at one point were in the same battle, he said.

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Folco’s family was lucky, and each of those who served were able to return home alive, he said.

“I don’t feel qualified to speak to you today,” he said.

“I was raised by veterans and I became one myself. War has shaped my family and me in more ways than I can say.”

Folco spoke outside the courthouse for the annual Memorial Day event in Franklin. The day marked the 20th anniversary of his discharge from the Marine Corps.

He and his family don’t have to visit a cross or a grave to remember a loved one, but they all knew those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Half of Folco’s father’s boot camp class who served in Vietnam was killed in the war, he said.

Memorial Day is often overlooked as an opportunity for Americans everywhere to honor sacrifice and reflect on the courage it took to fight for the U.S. throughout all its wars and conflicts, Folco said.

He encouraged families to take children to cemeteries and show them the graves of service members. Whenever they see service men and women, they should stop and thank them for their service, he said.

“We must become missionaries,” he said. “We are ambassadors for the fallen.”

For Nick Schiavarelli, a Franklin resident and Vietnam veteran who trained Folco when he first entered law enforcement, seeing his former student addressing the crowd was a full-circle moment.

As an officer with the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, he has seen how the appreciation of people for law enforcement and military has changed over the years, he said. Often, people think only of negative news stories involving the police, rather than the good they do for communities, he said. If he was a young policeman today, he would not be as enthusiastic about going into the field, he said.

Franklin residents Ed and Doris Boudreau attended the service with their grandson on Monday, as they do every year.

Ed, 87, is a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was drafted in 1951 and retired in 1971. The service gives them a chance to reflect on what they’re thankful for from the military.

The couple got married on the Fourth of July in Germany 46 years ago, when he was serving there in the Army band. His first available three-day leave after he proposed was the Fourth of July — and that was when they got married.

“It’s just nice to be here and to know I’m still alive and honor the fallen,” he said.

Johnson County historian and longtime resident Max Fitzpatrick said that Memorial Day services make him remember events from growing up. He was a child when the second world war began, and remembered how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the fairs were closed during the war.

“That war took up your whole life,” he said.

His family also lost several family members in World War II. Services such as this one and other military memorials, such as the one in Proctor Park in New Whiteland, give residents an opportunity to remember the protectors of our freedom, he said.

“People don’t realize that there’s a force standing in the world to keep us free,” he said.

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Anna Herkamp is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at aherkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2712.