Monday, while many Americans are enjoying a day off work by tossing a few burgers and hot dogs on the grill, the family and friends of veterans will gather to celebrate the sacrifice of local soldiers who have lost their lives throughout the years.
The Sampson County Veterans Council is hosting the annual Memorial Day celebration Monday, May 28, at 10 a.m. at the Sampson County Veterans Park. The service is held each year on the holiday as a way to honor those who have fought so hard defending the country and freedoms of the country.
“Memorial Day is about remembering those that didn’t come home,” Ann Knowles, director of Veterans Services, said. “It’s a very fitting service honoring those who fought for our freedoms.”
The service will include guest speaker W. Ray Johnson, retired brigadier general from the North Carolina Army National Guard who served in the Persian Gulf War. Afterward, refreshments will be provided by the Ladies Auxiliary VFW.
According to Knowles the yearly celebration is in honor of all the men and women who have died during war or immediately thereafter. Monday morning’s celebration will be about their service to the country and its people.
“It’s a very solemn event,” says Ann Knowles, the director of Veterans Services. “It’s a time for the people attending to think back on family members that have gave their life during their service.”
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.
Every year, during the Memorial Day celebration, the names of those who have lost their lives during battle are called, as a white or red carnation flower is laid in their memory. There are nearly 200 names called each year for soldiers having served from the Civil War until the Gulf War and died during battle or 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 or deceased. 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. “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.”
The Memorial Day service has been an annual event in the community since 1977, and has been located in different areas around the county throughout the years.
The VFW will also be accepting new members after the Memorial Day celebration, which spectators can inquire about at the designated tables, where any questions regarding signing up will be answered.
Poppies will also be given in various locations throughout the weekend, with a table being set up after the service as well. Red poppies are worn in remembrance of those who have died in war. This tradition began in 1915 with one woman, named Moina Michael, who was inspired by the poem titled, “In Flanders Fields.”