Vietnam veteran David Knowles proudly held up the American flag while listening to “God Bless America” Thursday at the Blue Star Memorial which sits just inside Sampson County.
As Ashton Blackburn sung the tune, the audience joined along and waved their red, white and blue flags, all taking part in a Memorial Day ceremony in northern Sampson Thursday evening. The second annual event is sponsored by the Just-A-Mere Garden Club.
“I think it’s very important for our veterans to take part in it,” Knowles said. “We helped fight for the freedom of our country as well as those serving today.”
Throughout the United States, many people will have Monday off from work, but Knowles indicated that it’s more than just a day to relax.
“I think they use it more or less for a holiday rather than what it really stands for,” he said.
During the ceremony, Sybil West, spoke on behalf of the Just-A-Mere Garden Club.
“And let us not forget the veterans of the past and living veterans, the veterans who suffer from the wounds of war, and particularly the veterans who have died in defense of the freedoms we celebrated today,” West said. “Let us not forget that our Armed Forces provide us with the eternal vigilance that keeps us free.”
World War II veterans Durwood Baggett and Thomas Williams placed a colorful wreath below the Blue Star Memorial marker. He enjoyed participating with his second cousin who served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946.
Baggett served with the 94th Infantry Division and fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
“I think it’s good to remember all veterans,” Baggett said. “That’s the purpose of Memorial Day. It’s to honor people who made a sacrifice.”
Baggett said a lot of people don’t know about the sacrifices made.
“When you have events like this, it does call it to the attention of the community,” he said.
Baggett said it was an obligation to serve.
“I can’t say that I jumped out there, gung ho for it,” he said.
For Baggett and other Americans, there was something to fight for.
“Everybody was against Hitler,” he said. “Now a lot of the boys don’t know why they’re fighting.”
Baggett said the soldiers during WWII represented a cross section of America.
“We had all grades of people because they were drafted and we had a good representation of our citizenship,” he said.
John McNamaia, commander of American Legion Post 59, said the Blue Star Memorial was the perfect place to have the ceremony because it honors the U.S. Armed Forces, which protects the country. It’s located near Highway 13, which is a highway used by military troops from Fort Bragg, Seymour Johnson, Camp LeJeune and the Navy Base at Cherry Point.
“Memorial Day, let’s face it, whether we were shot at and missed or shot at and hit, it’s one of the days that we celebrate,” McNamaia said. “We just hope that the public and the citizens will celebrate with us.”