Remembering the price of freedom

Published 4:57 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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AHOSKIE – We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.

That underlying message served as the foundation of Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony hosted by local American Legion Post 102. Due to the threat of rain, the annual event was moved indoors at the Post 102 building.

Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes served as the featured speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony held at American Legion Post 102 in Ahoskie. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes served as the ceremony’s featured speaker.

“We must remember that Memorial Day is more than just enjoying a long weekend; it represents the freedom we enjoy as American citizens because of soldiers who fought for us and didn’t make it home, those who died in foreign lands so we could enjoy freedom back home,” Hayes said.

“Freedom is based on one thing – sacrifice, the sacrifice of the men and women who fought in World War I all the way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan,” he continued. “They sacrificed their lives in the name of America to keep us safe here at home. They left a legacy that cannot be removed as it is etched in history for all eternity. They left behind brothers and sisters, wives, husbands, and children to tell their stories. They are the ones left with scars that cannot be healed and voids in their lives that cannot be filled. They are heroes in the face of certain death.”

As a military veteran himself, Hayes – who served in the U.S. Army during the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom – noted that he and his comrades would block out thoughts of home and loved ones while performing their duties.

“We had to focus on the task at hand while asking God to get us back home safely,” he said. “We dreamed of making it home, but understood we were going to lose sons and daughters in the name of freedom. Despite that, we charged forward without a second thought, even though it may mean certain death.

“If I could speak for the fallen, I would say to their families that we are still here. You can see us through the freedoms you enjoy each and every day. Americans sleep well at night because of the fallen soldiers as well as the ones who made it back home safely,” Hayes stressed. “Our flag stands tall because of those who fell in battle and the ones who made it home.”

Hayes took a moment to also recognize soldiers who despite making it back home still suffer from physical and mental scars.

“There’s an enemy that some of our soldiers here at home are still fighting that we cannot see – depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), anxiety, and nightmares; some of which lead to suicide,” Hayes observed. “We have soldiers sitting at home, alone in dark rooms, suffering mentally. They fight an invisible war because they can’t cut off the horrible things they’ve seen. They defended America, and now we must do all we can to help them.”

In closing, Hayes stressed the importance and purpose of Memorial Day.

“We must never forget our fallen as we own them everything. Without memories, there is no culture. Without memories there is no civilization. Without memories, there is no future. May God bless the families of the fallen and the fallen themselves,” he concluded.

Post 102 Commander James Hutchinson, who presided over Monday’s ceremony, noted the number of United States soldiers who lost their lives while in service to the country: World War I – 116,516; World War II – 416,800; Korean War – 33,686; Vietnam War – 58,220; Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – 7,057.

Following up on the remarks by Sheriff Hayes, Hutchinson said 30,177 active duty personnel and military veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan died by suicide.

“Here at Post 102 we strive to do things to keep our veterans in tune as much as we can,” Hutchinson said. “Being together and talking together helps. We invite all military veterans to come and join us.”

Also taking part in the event were Post 102 Chaplains Rev. Roger Kiker and Rev. Roosevelt Robins; the Hertford County High School JROTC who posted the Colors; and Christa Faison-Hall who sang a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.

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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