A fitting tribute

Charles Curtis, current president of VFW Post 7547, plays Taps during the Memorial Day celebration Monday.

Tex Howard salutes as Deondra Peterson sings the National Anthem during the Memorial Day celebration.

Glenn Bass, James Britt, Darryl Price, Avon Jones, Willie Mitchel and Renee’ Deramus fire during the salute to the veterans at the Memorial Day celebration.

Tex Howard and Darryl Price read a list of names of all those from Sampson County who have died during combat.

For Terry Tornow of Autryville, Memorial Day isn’t about the hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill, it’s about the many who lost their lives sacrificing for the freedom of many others.

Tornow was one of many veterans who attended the Memorial Day celebration hosted by the Sampson County Veterans Council. The service is held each Memorial Day at the Sampson County Veterans Park as a way to honor those who have fought so hard defending the country and freedoms of the country.

“This service means everything to me,” Tornow said. “We are here recognizing our brothers. I get very emotional when I talk about it.”

Tornow served in the Vietnam War as a member of the Special Forces.

According to Tex Howard, president of the Sampson County Veterans Council, the yearly celebration is in honor of all the men and women who have died during war or immediately thereafter. Monday morning’s celebration was about their service to the country and its people.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of America entering the Vietnam War. Ann Knowles, Veterans Service Officer, made note of the special anniversary and asked for those attending Monday’s celebration to pay a special tribute to the many who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

“This is what is important about this day,” Knowles said. “We need to pay homage to those who gave their all as a sacrifice. In your heart say a prayer for their families. Today is a our day of remembrance.”

While spending time with family celebrating on Memorial Day is important, Knowles expressed, the day shouldn’t be about having cookouts, going to the beach or finding the biggest deals at the mall. It should, however, be about honoring the many veterans who sacrificed for the freedom of America.

“In Sampson County, we honor our veterans every Memorial Day, every Jan. 1 and 365 days a year,” Knowles attested. “The most important dignitaries we have present are each one of you who is here to honor our veterans and the veterans who are here honoring others.”

The Sampson County celebration isn’t just something the Veterans Council throws together each year at the last minute, it’s an idea that is well thought out and constructed. According to Knowles, the council begins planning for the next year’s celebration the day after Memorial Day.

“We want to do our part in making sure the veterans are honored in a good way,” Knowles added.

The keynote speaker for the Memorial Day celebration was Charles Curtis, current president of VFW Post 7547, who will be handing the reins over later this month. During his speech, Curtis shared the history of the Vietnam War and what he experienced while serving. Curtis shared the names of some veterans who had left an impression on his life, simply by doing what they were called to day — serve their country.

All veterans, Curtis added, serve to maintain the freedoms Americans have.

“We are only one generation from losing that freedom,” Curtis said. “We are very blessed to have men and women who have answered the call.”

Every year, during the Memorial Day celebration, the names of those who have lost their lives during battle is called, as a white or red carnation flower is laid in their memory. There were 168 names called, having served from the Civil War until the Gulf War and died during battle of shortly thereafter.

“We are taking time to give honor to those who have served,” Knowles shared.

The Sampson County Veterans Park was constructed as a way for others to honor those who have served in battle, living ordeceased. According to Knowles, bricks are still available for purchase. To date, hundreds of bricks have been placed.

“We must never forget the sacrifices they (veterans) have given to keep our country free,” Knowles said following the service. “We have to fight and remember those who fought. If we don’t, who will want to join the service and continue fighting for us.”

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