Members of V.F.W. Post 8433 under the direction of Vietnam veteran Doug Taylor sponsored the annual Memorial Day observance. In conjunction with Monday’s ceremony, veterans and their families enjoyed an early morning pancake breakfast prepared by members of American Legion Post 122.
Under overcast skies and against the backdrop of a Huey helicopter, Master of Ceremonies Doug Taylor welcomed the many guests in attendance and introduced guest speaker Annette Harrell, president, Anna Jackson 224, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and keynote speaker, the Rev. Henry Bass, pastor of the First United Methodist Church.
After leading attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance, Taylor experienced technical problems with the music system that was set to play the National Anthem. He then looked to the crowd for a volunteer to lead the group in the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Sylvia Carrouth came forth and what followed was a stirring a cappella rendition of the song that set the stage for two powerful patriotic ballads by Alan Kaye.
In a song by the Louvin brothers, entitled “Weapon of Prayer,” he sang the refrain: “We don’t have to be a soldier in a uniform, To be of service over there, While the boys so bravely stand with the weapons made by hand, Let us trust and use the weapon of prayer.”
UDC President Harrell chronicled the historical significance of Memorial Day and how it became a national day of recognition for our fallen heroes.
She said although Memorial Day was proclaimed a federal holiday by law in 1971, “the people of Waterloo, N.Y., first observed Memorial Day on May 5, 1866, to honor soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Businesses were closed and people decorated the soldiers’ graves and flew flags at half-mast.”
Harrell outlined the objectives of the UDC and its focus on historical, educational, memorial, patriotic and benevolent objectives. “Some of you here may be the descendants of some of the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom,” she said. “We offer you our heartfelt love for the loss of your loved one.”
At that time, she recognized a Gold Star mother attending the ceremony, Rosa Kines, who lost her son, Edward “Eddie” Kines, in the Vietnam War. She also recognized two other Grady County veterans who died in service of their country: World War II veteran Carl Raymond Harrell and Vietnam veteran Robert Russell “Bobby” Rogers.
The Rev. Henry Bass spoke of traveling half way around the world as a missionary and affirming, “we have some problems in our country, but we’re still the greatest country in the world. Plato said of all the governments, ‘Democracy is still the best’!”
Having lost two children and two sons-in-law, the Reverend lamented the heartache that accompanies the loss of a family member, “I know something about sadness . . . I understand your pain, said the Rev. Bass, as he directed his comments to family members who have lost loved ones in the line of military duty.
The Rev. Bass discussed the important components of living in a modern-day democracy. “First of all, we have a goal in our country. ‘What is our goal?’ To keep our country free. Second, we are inspired by these people who are willing to give their lives for our country and for us. Third, we have a handicap – we don’t know the future. But the past teaches us a lot about our future. Fourth, we have a means: steadfastness and endurance.”
He further stated, “you’ll never make it in life unless you have endurance.” The Rev. Bass said he embarked on a college degree at the age 30 with five children at home, earning his four-year degree and later attending Emory University where he completed his seminary degree.
He added, “Steadfastness, you need to be strong in what you believe in. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God, and I believe in freedom and democracy.”
As a final point he declared, “We have a ‘presence’ in this world. We are a God-fearing country, and we do have a presence in the world that we live in.
“I want you to remember, this is still the greatest country in the world!”
American Legion Chaplain Ralph Miller and Elmo T. Israel, commander of American Legion Post 122, remembered prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA) as they conducted the “Empty Chair” ceremony near the end of the program. “The table is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks . . . unable to be with their loved ones and families,” Miller noted.
At the program’s conclusion, Taylor thanked the Cairo High School vocational classes for “redoing and engraving” crosses that line Broad Street in memory of fallen Grady County military service men and women.
Tommy Whitley, a former CHS graduate now attending VSU, sounded Taps as the crowd saluted the flag in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.