Local citizens remember fallen heroes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2006

People gathered in two Roanoke-Chowan area counties to pay homage to those who have died in the service of their country.

Veterans and others gathered in Ahoskie and Jackson to observe services in honor of Memorial Day Monday morning.

In Ahoskie, American Legion Post 102 remembered those who had given the ultimate sacrifice in a ceremony at No Man’s Land Park.

That ceremony was to have featured United States Army Major (Retired) Wallace G. White as the guest speaker. Maj. White was not able to attend the service because of an automobile accident involving his daughter that occurred in Greensboro.

His remarks were read by Sergeant Major (Retired) Johnnie Ray Farmer, who is a fellow member of the American Legion Post.

White’s remarks began by giving the history of Memorial Day, which was first proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan and observed on May 30 of the same year.

&uot;Memorial Day is a day unlike any other because it pays tribute to fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, cousins and friends who have given their lives for their country,&uot; White’s remarks read. &uot;They answered the call of military service from cities, towns and communities like Ahoskie, Murfreesboro and Winton from all over America and that call was without prejudice.&uot;

White gave facts about the conflicts in which America has been involved. According to his figures:

* 4,435 died in 80 months of the Revolutionary War;

* 33,651 died in 37 months of the Korean War;

* 57,369 deaths in 90 months of the Vietnam War;

* 393 deaths in one month of the Gulf War;

* Nearly 3,000 deaths in the Iraq War; and

* 407,316 deaths in 48 months of World War II.

&uot;Those Americans who died in all these wars – and more could be mentioned – did their duty and we know who they are, as we visit the cemeteries and note the dates of their shortened lives on their headstones,&uot; White wrote. &uot;We also know their loved ones, their wives, their fathers, their mothers and their children and their many friends will forever miss them.&uot;

White invoked the pledge that each service member took to uphold the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the president of the United States and superior officers.

In the closing of his remarks, White wrote, &uot;Today, let us remember the fathers, the mothers, the sons, the daughters and the many friends who gave their lives so that we might be able to enjoy the freedoms given to us in our Constitution.&uot;

The JROTC of Hertford County High School presented the colors while Reggie Faust presented &uot;Taps.&uot; American Legion Post 102 Commander Richard Grimes led the program.

At the Northampton County Courthouse in Jackson, retired Army Major Charles &uot;Chuck&uot; Youse gave the Memorial Day address at the annual &uot;Laying of the Wreath&uot; event.

Sergeant Major Johnnie B. Byrum presented the opening remarks at the ceremony, which drew approximately 100 people many of whom were veterans and family members.

Against the backdrop of the Northampton East High School JROTC presentation of colors, the crowd endured the heat as several presentations were offered in remembrance and recognition of the holiday.

Sheriff Wardie Vincent followed Byrum’s opening with an invocation.

After Vincent had concluded his remarks, Cpl. Shaquanda Jacobs of the NCHS JROTC sung the National Anthem.

During Youse’s remarks, he spoke first about the origins and evolution of Memorial Day before making a plea to the crowd to rejuvenate the spirit of the day.

&uot;Much of the public today has gotten disconnected from what the true meaning is of the important day in our country,&uot; Youse said. &uot;We need to reconnect the public with the sacrifices of our servicemen and women&uot;

Rouse spoke of the character traits that exemplify what the true meaning of Memorial Day stands for.

&uot;Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These are the values that embody the American spirit,&uot; Youse continued.

&uot;It is this spirit that personifies the American soldier. It is time to cherish those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our ideals.&uot;

After retired Captain Doris Dickens Wilson spoke briefly to the gathering, Youse and Vincent joined Captain Corey Payne of the NCHS JROTC in the &uot;Laying of the Wreath&uot; as cadet Brittany Wilkins played &uot;Taps&uot; on a bugle with the courthouse’s flags flying at half-mast.

Wilson, who was a WAAC in the Air Force’s Air Transport Command during World War II, was presented as the eldest veteran in attendance at the ceremony.

The heartfelt ceremony concluded with everyone who was present singing &uot;God Bless America&uot;.