U.S. Marine Capt. Matthew Tomkiewicz lost his life on March 18, 2022 near Bodo, Norway, when his aircraft crashed during training for NATO’s Cold Response 22. He was 27.
In honor of the most recent Indiana servicemember to pay the ultimate sacrifice, the bell from the World War II sunken USS Indianapolis tolled in his remembrance on Friday, May 26, during The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service in Indianapolis.
“We take this time to remember and honor the men and women who have given their lives for this great country,” said American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola on the steps of the Indiana War Memorial, where the ceremony was held. “Let us reflect on their courage, their sacrifice and their dedication to a cause greater than themselves. And let us recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom, justice and democracy, so that the legacy of our fallen heroes will live on for generations to come.
“We continue to mourn their loss, but most of all, we celebrate their lives.”
Prior to the outdoor memorial service, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb presented to the family of Tomkiewicz a Certificate of Honor during a private Gold Star Family service inside the Indiana War Memorial.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces “potential act of sacrifice is what separates us civilians from those true, heroic authors that have literally changed the course of history,” Holcomb said to 500 Festival Memorial Service attendees. “Our sense of gratitude must be equal to the never-ending sense of that loss. Today we honor fallen patriots not just with our words, but, like Lincoln said, ‘with our resolve to continue the great tasks remaining for us so that their sacrifice was not in vain.’ Today and every day we are filled with gratitude for those who gave their all.”
A Gold Star banner also was presented to the wife and parents of Tomkiewicz at the Gold Star Family service from Brig. Gen. Marcus Annibale.
The true meaning of Memorial Day is “to remember the uncommon courage of all who sacrificed their own lives to protect others and secure freedom,” Annibale said. “Matthew gave his life playing a critical role alongside 30,000 NATO troops operating in Norway when his MV-22 Osprey tragically crashed. Today we honor him and all Hoosiers who have made that sacrifice for our nation in so many locations around the globe. Each one of our fallen first answered the call of duty and then finally gave that last measure of devotion to protect and defend our way of life.”
The month of May in Indianapolis kicks off with one of the largest half marathons, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. About 1,200 participants wear a Gold Mile bib that displays the name of a fallen hero. Gold Star Family volunteers greet these participants along the Gold Mile, a mile-long motivational stretch at mile six of race.
“The men and women who serve and their families deserve our sincerest gratitude,” said Sara Fisher O’Gara, chairman of the 500 Festival Board of Directors, in her remarks. “Today and every day, the 500 Festival says thank you for your service and support.”
Memorial Day weekend ushers in the end of a school year for students across the state and the beginning of a summer of freedom. “It is fitting that we celebrate such a season by acknowledging the men and women who gave their lives for that freedom,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett, whose daughter is graduating from high school. “There is no better city in which to participate in that celebration than Indianapolis – home to The American Legion headquarters, home to the nations first monument dedicated to the common solider – the Soldiers and Sailors Monument – in a city that second only to Washington, D.C., in the amount of space we dedicate to honoring nation’s wars and those who served in them.”
This holiday weekend in Indiana is also associated with “a defining Hoosier annual event,” Hogsett added, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. “But again, it is only because of the sacrifice of those that we honor today that we can enjoy the race as we do. To veterans, to active-duty military joining us, on behalf of the City of Indianapolis, we thank you for your service. To family and friends of departed servicemembers today, we reflect on your sacrifice as well.”
The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service ended with a wreath-laying to remember the lives of fallen Hoosiers, the playing of taps and a flyover after the performing of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the 38th Infantry Division Band.
The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service will be aired Monday, May 29 on WISH-TV from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and on MyINDY-TV23 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. without commercial interruption.