Support for service

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MURFREESBORO – At 11 a.m. on November 11, citizens of Murfreesboro gathered together at the Town Hall to honor military veterans young and old. Because of the cool temperature Saturday morning, the majority of the annual event was held indoors as multiple speakers addressed the full room of people.

World War II veteran and longtime Murfreesboro resident Joe Dickerson made the opening remarks to the crowd, and after prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, Brinson Paul read a poem entitled “I am a Veteran.” The poem highlighted the sacrifices of regular people who followed the call to serve.

The national anthem and “America the Beautiful” were performed acapella by Kaymber Felton.

John Hinton, in one of his last acts as Murfreesboro’s mayor, spoke briefly to welcome those in attendance on behalf of the Town Council.

“Looking around, there are a few of us here who remember that day in June 1954 when our Congress declared this to be Veterans Day,” he said after explaining the holiday had previously been known as “Armistice Day” to recognize the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

Sgt. Major Johnnie Ray Farmer (US Army – Retired), a current member of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, was the featured speaker at the Veterans Day event in Mufreesboro.

Hinton continued by recognizing all the Veterans in attendance, adding that their dedication to preserving freedom is an inspiration to all. He wrapped up his remarks with a quote from President Thomas Jefferson.

“The boisterous sea of liberty is never without waves,” Hinton quoted before adding his own statement. “We must defend our freedom every day. May God bless you, and thank you for your service.”

The main speaker for the day’s ceremony, Johnnie Ray Farmer, was introduced by retired Navy Captain David Farnham. The captain briefly summarized the Hertford County native’s lifelong dedication to service.

This service began in 1969 when Farmer was drafted to fight in Vietnam the year after his high school graduation. In 1974, he chose to reenlist in the Army and eventually climbed to the rank of Sergeant Major before his retirement in 1992. Once he returned to Hertford County, he led the JROTC at the county’s public high school for several years, and has also served as county commissioner for almost two decades.

Much of the bulk of Farmer’s words emphasized the voluntary nature of today’s military and the support soldiers need while they carry out their duty.

“Ever since the Revolutionary War, American citizens have been conscripted into service,” he said. “But today, we have an all voluntary force.”

The retired Sergeant Major continued with a few statistics, saying, “During World War II era, more than 10 million men were inducted into military service and more than 63 percent of them were drafted. Contrary to popular belief, in the Vietnam conflict, only 21 percent of the 8.7 million men who served in Vietnam were drafted. Today, less than one percent of the 325 million Americans serve in our military force. Our active and reserve forces today are just a shade over 2 million.”

Farmer explained that deployments usually last six to nine months, and many soldiers today have been deployed eight or more times.

“These young men and women sometimes spend more time deployed than they do at home base with their families. But still, in spite of that, they reenlist,” he said. “These young soldiers with all these deployments are suffering mentally. If they’re not wounded physically, they’re wounded mentally. They need our support and our prayers.”

He wrapped up his speech with an emphasis on honoring veterans especially because of their sacrifices while carrying out their duties.

The annual ceremony concluded outside at the town’s military memorial. A ceremonial American flag, which had been given to the town by former Senator Elizabeth Dole, was lowered from the flagpole by Sergeant Jamie Dilday, Sergeant David Griffith, and Officer John Parker of the Murfreesboro Police Department. Afterwards, the flag was presented to Mayor Hinton who then presented it to Mayor-Elect Hal Thomas.

While Thomas returned the ceremonial flag to its place inside the Town Hall, Hinton led the crowd in singing familiar memorial song “Taps” to remember and honor American soldiers of the past and present.

Murfreesboro’s own veterans concluded the ceremony by raising the traditional flags over the memorial while the crowd looked on.