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Fallen Heroes Honored Monday

Wayne Sprouse hoisted the flag to full staff at noon, a Memorial Day tradition that honors the war dead in the morning and the living veterans in the afternoon. Almost 100 people attended the Memorial Day observance on Main Street in Water Valley.

WATER VALLEY –  Almost 100 people assembled in Railroad Park at noon Monday to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

“These men are worthy of far greater recognition or mere words or markers. The sacrifices they made, the deeds they performed shall be written in history and shall remain alive in our memories for generations to come,” VFW Post 4100 Quartermaster Mickell Dunn noted in opening remarks. His opening remarks followed the hoisting of the U.S. flag at noon, a tradition that honors the war dead in the morning and the living veterans in the afternoon.

Retired Brigadier General William “Bill” Waller, Jr. was the key speaker at the observance. Waller served for the Mississippi National Guard for more than three decades including  as Commander of the 66th Troop Command. He  shared details about the history of Memorial Day, reminding the crowd that the observance dates back to 1866 in Mississippi when ladies in Columbus decorated the graves of soldiers who fought for the north and south during the Civil War.

“It began as Decorations Day, of course today we recognized it as Memorial Day. This is the time we salute the ultimate price paid by the soldiers, airmen and marines, for their call to duty,” Waller said. “Time and time again our soldiers have answered the call. Over one million have paid the ultimate price since 1776 including 87 from Yalobusha County.” 

“So what can we do today, us sitting here in Water Valley, Mississippi?” Waller questioned about respecting the sacrifices that have been made to keep our country free.

“We need to pray for our president. We need to pray for the soldiers deployed in harm’s way right now,” Waller encouraged. “We have a veteran’s home in Oxford, just a few miles up. Lets adopt a veteran, we can visit somebody there.”

Waller also urged the attendees to show respect for the flag.

“Today, lets think of the flag as a symbol of those who died for our freedom. The red stands for courage, the white stands for liberty, the blue stands for justice and honor. So when you see that flag, see it not just as a symbol of the United States, but think of it as a symbol, the flag that soldiers fought under and died for the freedom that we have today,” Waller said. 

Waller also shared a personal connection with Water Valley during his military service after he was ordered to respond to Water Valley following the tornado on April 21, 1984.

“I was at my in-laws on Saturday night about 11 when I got a call saying I had been activated,” he recalled. At that time he was serving as Commander of Troop B, First 108th Army Calvary and Waller said about 40 soldiers mustered at Oxford that night before responding to Water Valley the next morning to secure the area. 

“There were thousands of people trying to get here, we had our jobs cut out for us,” Waller recalled. He also shared vivid memories of the damage and the spirit of the citizens during the recovery.

“The days I was here, I saw the spirit of America. I saw you rise up, you worked together, it was a wonderful scene, the spirit of cooperation,” Waller added. 

The recently restored 1917 cannon that has stood on Main Street for over seven decades was also dedicated during Monday’s observance. Dunn said the cannon was placed by the War Memorial in Railroad Park between 1949 and 1954.

“We tried to find out when the canon came and when it was dedicated. There was no such event,” Dunn told the crowd. He also recognized the community support for the restoration, reading the names of individuals and businesses that contributed to the effort.

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