The American flag waved in the wind Monday as hundreds of people gathered around the Veterans Memorial at Jack Laughery Park for a Memorial Day ceremony to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“We gather here today to renew our promise that they have not died in vain,” Vincent J. Tesoro, president of the Joint Veterans Committee of Nash and Edgecombe Counties, said during Monday’s ceremony. “We salute them because they are our heroes.”
The ceremony, which was presented by the Joint Veterans Committee of Nash and Edgecombe Counties, included patriotic music, remarks from veterans, a rifle salute and a ceremony to honor those who were prisoners of war or went missing in action.
The songs of each of the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces played while the flag for each branch was raised and then set at half-staff.
Close to 500 attendees – many of whom wore red, white and blue – sat on lawn chairs, bleachers and blankets around the memorial. Some were veterans themselves. Others had spouses, parents, grandparents, friends or other relatives and loved ones who served. All of them came together with a common purpose.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Leon Dockery, who was the keynote speaker for the event, told attendees to honor the memories of those who died and to honor and respect the country for which they died. He also urged those who attended the ceremony Monday to live the best life they can and to continue to recognize the freedoms that people in the United States are able to enjoy.
“Honoring our fallen warriors is done best by being a living example of the values we hold so dear,” Dockery said.
Tim Luper, who served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970, attended the Memorial Day ceremony with his wife, Sylvia.
“It’s a sobering day, especially for veterans – those who have served and understand that it could have been me,” Luper said.
He had an uncle who was killed in action during World War II.
Luper’s oldest daughter was born while he was in Vietnam, five days before he returned home.
Luper said it is important to teach young people about the meaning and significance of Memorial Day.
“The memory of our fallen should never be extinguished,” he said.
Willie L. Armstrong, who served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1958, attends the Memorial Day ceremony every year. He said it was a blessing and a privilege to attend Monday’s ceremony. It’s important to remember and give thanks to those who sacrificed it all, Armstrong said.
“We need to do it so we won’t forget,” he said.