There may be larger Veterans Day programs across our state and nation, but we’re certain there aren’t any better or more poignant than the one held at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center every Nov. 11.
Moving from its opening prayer until the last note of Taps, the annual event pays a fitting — and much deserved — tribute to our veterans, and is done with great class and a reverence that brings goose bumps to our arms and tears to our eyes.
A day after the latest celebration, we offer our thanks to all those who have made it possible from its inception through Monday, starting with Veterans Service Officer Ann Knowles and including long-time master of ceremonies J.W. Simmons, Sampson County government, the Chamber of Commerce, the Exposition Center staff and the Veterans Council.
Those who’ve never been a part of the celebration should mark their calendars for next Nov. 11, being sure they make it out for the event. It is, without question, worth your time and attention, the eye-opening experience that will make you proud, firstly to be an American and secondly to be a Sampsonian.
Monday’s celebration certainly made us both, as we joined with veterans and their families, as well as citizens from across our great county, to honor and memorialize to those who’ve served — and continue to serve — our country so bravely and selflessly.
Patriotism ran high as the VFW Post 7547 posted the colors and Randie Autry sang The National Anthem, and it continued as Kaylan Dean Sinclair offered an extremely moving version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic followed later by Dwight Williams Jr.’s song Blades of Grass and Pure White Stone.
And that patriotism continued to reach a crescendo as local veterans stood when their branch of service was recognized during the Armed Forces salute, yet another reminder of how many among us served our country.
In this extremely busy and high-tech world we live in, we often forget the significance of a hand placed over a heart or the feeling that comes with the quiet but powerful recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance. We forget the surge of emotion that comes when a weathered hand lifts to forehead in salute or graying heads bow in prayer, their uniforms as crisp as the memories running through their minds as the Stars and Stripes are raised.
But our Veterans Day program serves as a special reminder of the things we so often take for granted or merely push to the recesses of our minds because of the day-to-day challenges we face.
On Monday, all those emotions resurfaced, reminding us that God and country are some of the most important aspects of our lives, the key ingredients of who we are as citizens of a great land protected by the bravest and most selfless among us, men and women who, through time, have assured us the lives we live today.
As it states on the Veterans Day celebration program: “May we always remember our freedom is not free. It was paid by someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, brother or sister… May we never forget …”
Thanks to those responsible for Monday’s celebration — and those who loyally attend each year — those who’ve served will never be forgotten in Sampson County. And that is as it should be.