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By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – About 100 people gathered downtown at the Veteran’s monument in Railroad Park for a Memorial Day ceremony honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
After a steady decline in past years, the number of participants at the ceremony is growing. “Maybe it’s because America is at war and young people are dying,” commented a World War II veteran.
VFW Post 4100 Commander Sam Phillips opened the ceremony with a tribute to “fallen comrades.” He turned toward the monument and said that it represented the resting-place of those who died to protect our freedom.
“Wherever the body of a comrade dies, that ground is hallowed,” he said. “They have made us their debtors for the flag of our nation still flies over a land of free people.”
Post Chaplin Andy Grass introduced Bro. Rick Glidewell, Pastor of Hope-well Baptist Church, who gave the invocation. Phillips then led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Water Valley’s First Lady Betty Hart sang the National Anthem.
As members of Post 4100 placed a pair of wreaths in front of the monument, Phillips said, “On behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America, Post 4100, we place this symbol of our remembrance.”
He then turned the program over to Mayor Larry Hart who said he was honored to speak before such a privileged group, “especially our veterans.”
Hart said that we should also remember the families of those who died in our nation’s defense. “A great, great price has been paid by those family members.”
“Time is flying on by,” the Mayor said, referring to the World War II veterans of the “greatest generation” whose ranks are thinning.
The Mayor added that we need to also remember our Korean and Vietnam vets. “There’s another generation today making greatness out there for America in Afghanistan and Iraq. They will be recognized one day as a great generation.”
Speaking next, Rep. Tommy Reynolds quoted Abraham Lincoln. “We should care for those who have borne the battle, their widows and their orphans.”
Reynolds said that it has been 60 years since the start of the “forgotten war…the Korean War.”
“By the end of that conflict – they never called it a war – 34,000 Americans had given their lives and 415,000 Koreans had given their lives,” he said.
“As a result of what they did and the sacrifices they made, 55,000,000 people live in freedom today in Korea.”
Reynolds concluded his comments by reading the poem, “In Flanders Fields” written during World War I by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae after he witnessed the death of a friend.
The final speaker was John Wigington, Quarter-master elect for Post 4100. Wigington explained some of the programs sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars both locally and nationally.
He said that members of the organization donate more than 13,000,000 hours of community service nationwide. The VFW also gives scholarships and partners with the Boy Scouts of America.
Locally, Post 4100 supports the Military Assistance Program that provides relocation and employment assistance. They also support Operation Uplink that helps service members call home, according to Wigington.
Through their fund raising efforts, the group provides grants to military families in distress and supports a youth baseball team.
In closing, Wigington urged those attending to “support our troops, support our veterans, and remember our fallen heroes.”