on August 14, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on ‘Decorate the grave of someone’ different

‘Decorate the grave of someone’ different

Ahmad Ghais, 78, standing in Fort Logan National Cemetery, hugged a framed photograph close to his chest.

The photo was of his younger brother, Taher, a Muslim-American soldier who died in the Vietnam War in 1968 when he was 24.

So when Ghais, an Arvada resident, learned about an event called “Honor for the Fallen,” asking people to show up to Fort Logan to decorate the graves of Muslim-Americans who served in the military, he had to come.

He’s personally offended, he said, by recent rhetoric against Muslim-Americans.

“This is not the country we signed up for,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Have we forgotten the value?”

Mike Sexton of Highlands Ranch organized the Aug. 7 event. On a Facebook page last week, Sexton invited people to Fort Logan to honor Muslim-American soldiers –; and any soldier of any background –; buried at the cemetery in Denver.

Sexton’s idea for the gathering took root when Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier killed in 2004 during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Khan’s father, Khizr, who immigrated with his wife, Ghazala, from the United Arab Emirates in 1980, delivered a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that talked about the U.S. Constitution and Trump’s views of Muslims and other minorities. The Khans’ three sons grew up in Maryland.

“We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams,” Khizr Khan said. “Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers.”

Khizr Khan also directed parts of his speech at Trump.

“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” he said.

Trump responded with public criticism against the Khan family, which prompted Sexton to take action.

Sexton, a computer programmer, doesn’t have a military background, but his brother is an active duty colonel in the Army and his father served in the Navy. He’s not Muslim, but through work he’s had many Muslim colleagues and friends, he said.

He organized “Honor the Fallen” to show support for the Kahn family, members of the military and Muslim-American service men and women, he wrote on his Facebook page.

He only expected him and his wife to show up.

But by 10 a.m. on Sunday, about 20 people had congregated at the entrance of the cemetery, carrying bundles of red and pink roses and holding American flags.

“I’m flabbergasted,” said Sexton. “People just came together as Americans –; complete strangers from all different walks of life.”

Sexton encouraged guests to honor a grave of someone different than them, whether it be race, ethnicity or religion.

“If you are a Christian, place the flag on the grave of a Jewish vet,” he wrote, “If you are white, find the grave of an African-American or Latino vet and place a flag there. The important part is that we honor our fellow Americans when we can.”

Jill and Samuel Jenkins, an African-American couple from southeast Aurora, wore patriotic T-shirts and carried colorful flowers.

Samuel’s parents and Jill’s father are buried at Fort Logan.

The bottom line, Jill said, is that everyone in the cemetery is a hero –; no matter what race, color or religion.

“We have to remember these people fought for our freedom and they should never be forgotten,” she said.

Sexton plans to organize an “Honor the Fallen” day at Fort Logan National Cemetery once every couple of weeks. He will post updates on his Facebook page.

His message to fellow Americans:

“Find a military cemetery –; it doesn’t have to be Fort Logan –; and decorate the grave of someone with a different background than you,” he said. “It’s something simple –; anyone can do it.”

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