Proud Americans gather for Conway tribute

Published 9:53 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

CONWAY – Rev. Andy Sloan readily admits that he is not a military veteran, nor has his family suffered the loss of a loved one in battle.

Sloan does admit to being a proud American.

“I wish that I could feel your pain on a personal level; those who have lost a family member while in service to this country,” said Sloan, the pastor of Creeksville Baptist Church who served as the featured speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day tribute at Conway’s Veterans Park.

A military veteran salutes the flag flying at half-staff at Conway’s Veterans Park on Monday as he and others paused to pay their respect on Memorial Day. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

A military veteran salutes the flag flying at half-staff at Conway’s Veterans Park on Monday as he and others paused to pay their respect on Memorial Day. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

“All I am is one of millions, maybe billions, that have benefitted from the sacrifice of so many others,” Sloan continued. “I represent the reason why so many have served and so many have died, and for that I give my eternal thanks for the freedom I so enjoy.”

Sloan noted that American soldiers laid down their lives for what they believed was a good cause.

“They died protecting this country and for what this country stood for,” he said. “They died defending a way of life that they felt was worth dying for.”

He thought about those sent into battle and came out alive.

“They live with the consequences of war, to include trauma, both physical and emotional,” Sloan noted. “They live with the thoughts of the deaths of their comrades in arms. Many can’t sleep at night due to those thoughts. We should never forget the fallen soldiers, but let us also not forget those soldiers still living.”

While on the subject of living veterans, Sloan said he felt they do not receive the benefits they so rightly deserve.

“Let us never rest until all of our soldiers are well taken care of,” he said. “Let us never stop declaring to our elected officials that the only reason they were able to be voted into office was because of the sacrifice of some unknown person, the person they seem to be so willing to forget about.”

Sloan reminded the audience of the meaning of Memorial Day, first set aside in 1868 as Declaration Day where citizens came together to remember and honor the men and women who have died in the service of their country and place flowers and flags on the graves of those who gave their last full measure of devotion to their country.

He said there have been over 1.3 million American deaths in the nine major wars in which America has participated, dating back to the Revolutionary War up until the present conflict in Afghanistan.

“The Americans who died in all these wars 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,” Sloan said.

Sloan stressed that American soldiers not only sacrificed for the good of the United States, but for other countries as well. He recalled watching war movies as a child, and thinking how could these brave men and women race head-on into battle where they knew death awaits.

“What was their motivation….the only answer I can come up with is love, the love that a soldier has not only for his country, but for his family as well,” he stated. “Love is a great motivator. I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the book of John, chapter 15, verse 13…‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.”

Sloan linked that passage of scripture to another ultimate sacrifice, the one made by Jesus who died on the cross to save people from their sins.

Conway Mayor Brian E. Bolton welcomed those attending Monday morning’s event, held under sunny skies and a gentle breeze that was enough to cause the American, North Carolina and POW/MIA flags, all flying at half-staff, to unfold and show their proud colors.

“We stand here today to memorialize the fallen soldiers,” Bolton remarked. “This particular day is always full of mixed emotions; you’re happy to see such a good turnout of local citizens, but the cause we’re here for is very humbling.”

Bolton spoke of Conway’s own, Army Sgt. Will McLawhorn Jr. At the young age of 23, McLawhorn was one of six members assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) that died Dec. 12, 2010 in Howz-e-Madad, Afghanistan of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Bolton spoke of the sacrifice made by McLawhorn and others to protect the freedoms all Americans enjoy today.

Bolton led the opening prayer as well as the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following the traditional laying of a wreath, performed by Stewart Lane and Art Watson, at the base of the granite monuments of each branch of the U.S. military, the P.A. system played “Taps” followed by benediction from Linwood Coggins.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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