When most people think of Memorial Day, they focus on the holiday marking the coming of summer. However, the day is meant for remembering the men and women throughout history who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. No one understands the significance of the day more than retired Col. John Kensinger, a resident of The Legacy Willow Bend. He spends the day reflecting on his military career and remembering those he served alongside who never returned home.
Kensinger spent 30 years of his life in a uniform and played a role in some of the most volatile moments in U.S. history. These moments – including the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War and the Cold War – continue to define our world even today. After his initial service in in the Navy, Kensinger joined the Air Force, though his eyesight never allowed him to be a pilot. Instead, he became a navigator and electronic warfare officer aboard B-52 bombers. Over time his career progressed, and he lead the implementation of the latest technology in electronic warfare for the military, but he never forgot what it meant to be sent on a mission. While time may erode the details of war, the heart carries the reminders of comradery shared by those in uniform and the brutality of war witnessed along the way.
“Looking back on my service, I’m reminded there are those who sacrificed far more than I did,” said Kensinger. “I’m incredibly proud to have served alongside so many brave men and women. The job was always tough and fraught with conflict but was important nonetheless. It is different today for those who return from war than it was during my time, especially in regards to the Vietnam War. We’re far more aware of the importance of supporting our veterans as they transition back into civilian life and remembering those who don’t come home.”
According to Kensinger, he’s most proud of the work he did as a crew member on B-52 bombers and during his time at the Pentagon throughout the Vietnam War and the Cold War era. While at the Pentagon, he and others worked to develop new capabilities and strategies to better defend the homeland and troops stationed abroad. He states that during the Cold War, the United States maintained a more defensive approach and positive outlook on our ability to protect our interests. While the era in which he served may have seen fewer lives lost than that of previous conflicts, Kensinger believes it is important to ensure that their sacrifices are not taken for granted.
“It’s not a secret that the Vietnam War was one that not everyone believed in,” said Kensinger. “However, that in no way should influence how we honor those who gave their lives. Memorial Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the cost of freedom and a reminder for us to live with that in mind. This is especially pertinent as we look at the men and women who are regularly coming home and returning from tours of duty in the current conflicts in the Middle East. Many of them do not come home. We have to remember them, and I hope that we continue to show them the proper appreciation they deserve for their collective sacrifice.”
“At The Legacy Willow Bend, we are honored to have a number of veterans in our community. They are dedicated to remembering their fellow servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate price,” said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend. “We have the opportunity to stand in freedom today because of the sacrifice of other Americans, and we are forever grateful. We are very fortunate to have veterans in our community like Col. Kensinger who continue their duty by reminding us how important it is to remember those who cannot share their stories. We hope that on this Memorial Day others are inspired to pay tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives while serving the country.”