A ceremonial $2,000 check was presented to the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Foundation Wednesday as part of Zimmer Biomet Veterans Resource Group’s Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony. Pictured (L to R) are Ken Tripp, Zimmer Biomet senior vice president, global operations and logistics, and U.S. Navy veteran; Medal of Honor recipient Allen J. Lynch; and Matt Linville, Zimmer Biomet senior director, human resources, and Veterans Resource Group co-chair. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A ceremonial $2,000 check was presented to the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Foundation Wednesday as part of Zimmer Biomet Veterans Resource Group’s Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony. Pictured (L to R) are Ken Tripp, Zimmer Biomet senior vice president, global operations and logistics, and U.S. Navy veteran; Medal of Honor recipient Allen J. Lynch; and Matt Linville, Zimmer Biomet senior director, human resources, and Veterans Resource Group co-chair. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Medal of Honor recipient and Army Sgt. Allen J. Lynch said Memorial Day is a strange holiday because what you do on it all depends on who you are and what your relationship to the holiday is.

Lynch was the guest speaker at the Zimmer Biomet Veterans Resource Group Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony Wednesday at the Center Lake Pavilion.

“For some, Memorial Day is the start of summer. And if it’s a nice day, not like today, it’s usually around a family cookout, which is usually the first one of the summer, cookout season and the family gets together and that’s great,” he said. “If you’re a veteran or a veteran family or one of these really patriotic Americans, you might go to a Memorial Day ceremony like this, you might go to a parade. If you’re a veteran, like I did a few years ago, you might go to the local cemetery and put flags on the graves of veterans. It just depends.”

He said for some, it is “very, very personal.”

Lynch has a friend that his foundation - the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Foundation - works with that is a Gold Star mother. She told him one day, “I had just gotten the kids off to school. I was getting ready to sit down and have a cup of coffee and I heard car doors close. I don’t know what it was about that, but it got me right in the pit of my stomach. I knew ... the stars were not aligned. Something was wrong.”

She answered the door bell and “everything was confirmed,” Lynch said. “There were the two Army officers, the chaplain. And she felt in the deep pit of her stomach that horrible, horrible feeling.”

The next several weeks for her were nothing but a blur and she doesn’t a remember a lot of stuff that happened.

“They had to fight down that emotion to get through - getting him home, getting him buried. Dealing with the loss. She said for months afterwards, she expected him to walk through the door. She expected a phone call that there was a mistake,” Lynch said. “Christmas came, he wasn’t there. His birthday came, he wasn’t there.”

For almost two years, she told Lynch, she kept expecting that he would show up. She kept seeing things that he would love.

“It’s been a few years. She said, ‘I don’t do that as much, but I still do.’ She said, ‘Memorial Day is a day when I am forced to remember one of the worst days of my life,’” Lynch said.

Every time she speaks about the lodge she is trying to get started for combat veterans, Lynch said the woman said, “I have to take that part of me that wants to scream and cry and put that away so I can talk about the bigger picture of what I want to do to honor his memory.”

Lynch said that’s Memorial Day for a lot of people.

“Some of us that are veterans, it’s remembering that patrol, that last mission. For me, it’s remembering Jerry Bryans, who was killed by friendly fire. Shot by a guy that had his head deep, dark and uncomfortable. Turned out to be a good NCO after he got an attitude adjustment,” Lynch said. “I remember Lt. Sutherland who was one of the guys that tried to rescue me and the guys that I was with on Dec. 15 who got killed in the rescue.”

Memorial Day, he said, is very personal for many.

“The one thing that we need to understand is none of us went into the military to sacrifice our lives. We went in and we went in to sacrifice our time. The best time of our life when a lot of people are building their careers; we chose to go into the military to serve our country, to sacrifice our time, our effort, our energy, but we did not go in to sacrifice our life,” Lynch stated.

“And I think it’s important because, I think when we say they sacrificed their lives, we’re kind of pushing the responsibility to the men and women that have lost their lives in service to our country.”

He said the responsibility, the ones who are doing the sacrificing, is not them - they want to come home.

“The government does the sacrificing. And because our government is elected by we, the people, WE do the sacrificing. You and I. It is our responsibility, nobody else’s. They want to come home. We determine the government that we have. We decide if the sacrifices are worth it, either by our action or inaction. When the president of the United States says he wants to commit troops, do we demand from him or her, ‘What are our objectives? What are we going to do? What are the results of what we are going to do? How long are we going to be involved?’ Or do we get on the patriotic bandwagon and just clap as they go off to war?” Lynch said.

He asked if we require our Congressional representatives to have a “dog in the hunt” - a kid in the military that serves in harm’s way - whenever they say, “Let’s go to war.”

A lot of people want to talk about sacrifice and service.

“We are the government, you and I. We determine the government we get. It is our responsibility. Nobody else’s. The buck stops with you and me. We live in a constitutional republic. We have the right and responsibility to elect to office those public officials that actually care about the American people and the American serviceman and woman. And when they go off to war, we have to make sure that it is a war that is worth risking our loved ones for,” Lynch said.

“A lot of people talk about serving veterans. If you want to serve veterans, if you want to serve those in the military, our first responders, we need to elect to office those men and women that will have the best interest of the United States of America at heart and those who serve her. And then we have to follow up on that by making sure when they come home from war, that they are taken care of properly by the Department of Veteran Affairs and by our local communities. That’s how we can truly honor those men and women who’ve served,” he concluded.

The Gold Star family of Spc. David A. Wilkey Jr. from Elkhart - Melinda, Blayke and Alexea Wilkey - earlier in the ceremony were recognized and presented the commemorative wreath at the front of the ceremony in honor of the many U.S. servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom for the nation.

After Lynch’s speech, in memory of Spc. David A. Wilkey Jr., Zimmer Biomet Veterans Resource Group and the Zimmer Biomet Foundation presented a $2,000 ceremonial check to the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation.

The foundation originally was formed to provide funding to needy veterans and their families to assist in their recovery from financial hardships, according to Army veteran and Veterans Resource Group Chairman Jim Waldrop. Recognizing a greater need, the foundation transitioned to aiding veteran-friendly organizations through leveraging partners and sponsors to provide greater assistance than could otherwise be provided. This aid is dependent on outside contributions, like the one presented Wednesday by Zimmer Biomet, Waldrop said, “which will help multiple veteran-friendly organizations performing support for many more veterans.”

Spc. Wilkey was born in Michigan. As a teenager, he moved to Elkhart, graduating from Jimtown High School. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade of the famed Big Red 1, or the 1st Infantry Division stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas.

In 2007, Waldrop said, Spc. Wilkey deployed to Iraq with his unit near Baghdad. On June 18, he died from wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his Humvee convoy.

Spc. Wilkey was married to Melinda and they had a 1-year-old son and a 4-year-old stepson. At the time, Melinda was pregnant and expecting their second child in October of that year.