MOUNT GILEAD — The day was beautiful; the message somber.
Speaker Frank Hickman II reminded the several hundred gathered at Rivercliff Cemetery under sunny skies Monday afternoon what Memorial Day signifies. It is set aside to remember and honor men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
“This is a solemn celebration. Today we preserve their memory, their service and their sacrifice,” Hickman said.
Eighty-five men from Morrow County gave their lives in four wars — 29 in World War I, 43 in World War II, 5 in the Korean War and 8 in Vietnam. Pastor Jeff Canankamp read each of their names.
“They died to protect our freedoms across this country, including religious freedom and the right to assemble as we are today,” Hickman said. “We must keep their memory and their story alive.”
The Mount Gilead High School marching band played “Taps” and Boy Scout Troop 56 placed flowers on grave sites.
Hickman thanked all veterans at the ceremony and asked them to raise their hands to be acknowledged. He had a special thank you and “welcome home” for Vietnam veterans, recalling that they never got that kind of a welcome home when they returned.
“There were 58,000 who didn’t come home from Vietnam. What would they ask of us?” he said.
In closing, Hickman, who served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, told the crowd of the ultimate sacrifice made by those in all branches of service.
Hickman told the story of his uncle, who died at age 19 in a crash of a B-17 bomber. He also remembered his classmate, Phillip Moore, a U.S. Marine who died in Vietnam in 1967 at age 22.
“They gave the last full measure of their devotion. They gave their lives. Lest we forget.”
Many residents carried small American flags or wore other symbols of the Red, White and Blue like Maggie Broadwater and her daughter Morrigan.
Other communities including Marengo, Iberia, Cardington, Johnsville and others held ceremonies Monday.