A Memorial Day ceremony was held at John N. Smith Cemetery on Monday where retired Lt. Col. Ernest L. Wearren Jr., a 1993 South Brunswick High graduate, was the featured speaker.

He said he was honored to be asked to speak at the annual event hosted by the John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Inc. and American Legion Bellamy Joyner Post 213 and Women’s Auxiliary,

“It is a growing event and I’m humbled that they would choose me, understanding what it means,” he said.

Wearren was born in Wilmington in 1973 to the late Ernest Wearren Sr. and Gwendolyn Wearren. After graduating from South Brunswick in 1991, Wearren was appointed to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Factors Engineering and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force on May 31, 1995.

Wearren also earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Business and Organizational Security Management from Webster University and a Master of Arts Degree in Military Operational Art and Science from the Air Command Staff College at Air University.

As a career manpower officer, his past assignments include headquarters Air Force, major command headquarters, joint headquarters, squadron commander and deputy group commander. In July 2015, he was assigned as the Chief of the U.S. Air Force Manpower Programs Development Branch, U.S. Pentagon, Washington, DC. After almost 22 years of service he retired on December 1, 2016.

Lt. Col. Wearren is married to the former Tasha Johnson of Bolivia, and they have four daughters.

During the ceremony on Monday, Wearren took a moment to recognize all those who have served or are currently serving, as well as any who have lost a loved one in service.

“We are humbled by your sacrifices, as we know they are great, and we commend the demonstrations of courage and strength that you have no doubt shown throughout the most difficult of times,” he said in his opening remarks.

Wearren told the crowd that more than 1.1 million men and women have died in wartime throughout the span of the nation’s history. In perspective, that’s more than the populations of San Francisco, Boston, Seattle or Washington, D.C.

He spoke of the importance remembering veterans, as well of taking care of veterans who return home from combat. Wearren mentioned the many ways Americans can keep the fallen, as well as injured and ill veterans, in their minds and hearts throughout the year.

“If you are so inclined, organizations like the American Legion offer ways to give back to those who have endured the physical, psychological and emotional wounds of war,” he said. “It could be driving a veteran to a medical appointment, befriending a veteran who lives alone or in a nursing facility, or reaching out to the veteran who just left military service.

“Please, reach out to find ways you can help engage and be part of the effort to care for those who served.”

When asked what Memorial Day means to him, he replied, “It’s a time when we honor our fallen heroes. I knew some who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Families are left to fill the burden.

“It’s our chance to show appreciation of their sacrifice, and show the families that we care.”