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The ‘enemy’ remains

CONWAY – Dozens gathered at Conway’s Veteran’s Memorial Park on Veterans Day to honor veterans, past and current, with a simple, poignant ceremony.

Mayor Elect W.T. “Tommy” Barrett Jr. – a veteran of the US Air force from 1966-1970 – welcomed those attending.

Many veterans attended along with their and some caring civilians.

Rev. Willie A. McLawhorn – an Air Force veteran from 1968-1972 – started the ceremony with a moving prayer for veterans and their families.

This was followed by an a cappella rendition of the National Anthem by everyone and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Northampton Sheriff Jack W. Smith – Marine Corps, 1970-1972, was the guest speaker. Barrett introduced him as having 43 years in law enforcement and one tour of duty in Vietnam.

Smith began his remarks to the audience to bow their heads in memory of former Sheriff Ellis Squire, who recently passed away with 44 years of service with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Department.

He also wanted people to honor the service of James Otis Manley, who was being buried at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Manley served during the Korean War.

Smith said that in Vietnam there was no race. “We were all brothers,” he said, “just about from the time you got there.”

He also said there are no atheists in war zones.

“When the bombs start flying, everyone is hoping they make it out alive,” Smith said. “They want to endure until they make it back to America.”

Smith said veterans have to give up a lot of their lives to serve in the military. The have to leave behind their homes, be separated from their wives, and give up on raising their children while gone – sometimes missing the birth of a child, his/her first step, her first prom, among many other important moments in a child’s life.

But, he said, without veterans we would have no freedom and might be speaking a different language.

He reminded the audience that we still have many enemies in the world, both foreign and domestic.

“Just this week,” he said, “they broke up a plot to kill our children. We’re still in a war even here in America.”

He later thanked the nation for accepting more roles for women in the military. He said there are now women Green Berets and their military equivalents in the Marine Corps.

Smith said, “Freedom isn’t free. Someone has to keep us safe, so someone has to sacrifice.

“Vets know about standing watch,” he said.

As for the general society, Smith said people can help vets by offering them jobs because they make excellent employees, look after the homeless because many of them are suffering from PTSD and need help, and listen to others because they can give you good advice.

Smith said vets make up just 10 percent of the population and that only one percent of the population is now protecting us from the terrorism.

He concluded that the United States of America is still the greatest nation on Earth.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a wreath was laid by Robert E. “Whitey” Jenkins (US Army 1967-’69) and George Majette (US Army 1966-’72).