By Maj. Gregory Douds Assistant Judge Advocate Georgia State Defense Force
Georgia State Defense Force Lt. Col. Steve Knezo (left) stands with friend and colleague, Georgia Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj.(Ret) James Nelson Jr., at the Freedom Calls Memorial Wall, Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Ga., May 27, 2021.
Georgia Army National Guard photo by Brig. Gen. Konata A. Crumbly
On May 27, 2021, Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Lt. Col. Steve Knezo reunited with his friend and colleague, Georgia Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) James Nelson Jr., for the Georgia National Guard Memorial Day Observance at the Freedom Calls Memorial Wall, Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Ga.
The wall commemorates Georgia National Guard Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terrorism Photos of the fallen line the Memorial Wall.
Lt. Col. Knezo, who currently serves as GSDF Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, enlisted in the GSDF in November 2001. As a practicing attorney, then Assistant Judge Advocate Maj. Knezo led the effort to obtain 501(c)3 public charity status for the Freedom Calls Memorial Foundation, which constructed the Memorial Wall in 2014. Securing public charity status was crucial because the Memorial Wall could not have been legally financed with public funds.
Lt. Col. Knezo then worked as a project manager and liaison between the Freedom Calls Memorial Foundation, its vendors, the National Guard, and the families of the fallen. He contributed the inspirational statement that appears on the granite plaque at the center of the Memorial Wall: “To the Fallen – In grateful memory of the men and women of the Georgia National Guard who gave their lives in the name of peace and freedom during the Global War on Terrorism. We shall remember them.”
Command Sgt. Maj Nelson served on active duty during the Global War on Terrorism. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Freedom Calls Memorial Foundation, Inc.
The Georgia State Defense Force bench at the Freedom Calls Memorial Wall, Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Ga.
Georgia State Defense Force photo by Lt. Col. Steve Knezo
Each unit of the Georgia National Guard is recognized with a memorial bench facing the wall. The Georgia National Guard memorialized the GSDF’s effort in securing the foundation’s public charity status, which led to the Memorial Wall’s construction, and recognized the GSDF’s service to the citizens of Georgia, by honoring the GSDF with a bench alongside the other benches representing units of the Guard.
Memorial Day Observance Ceremony 2021
The nation observed Memorial Day on Monday, May 31.
This year’s Georgia National Guard Memorial Day Observance Ceremony was held on Thursday, May 27.
The official party for this year’s ceremony at the Freedom Calls Memorial Wall included, Georgia Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Carden Jr.; Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Logan, the state Command Sergeant Major of the Georgia Army National Guard; GSDF Commanding General Brig. Gen. Mark D. Gelhardt Sr.; and GSDF Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick O’Leary.