While many Americans spent Monday on a beach basking in the sun or at the mall taking advantage of the holiday sales, dozens of Sampson County residents attended the annual Memorial Day celebration held in honor of those fallen soldiers who fought so hard defending this country.
The service is held each Memorial Day at the Sampson County Veterans Park and hosted by the Sampson County Veterans Council. The yearly celebration, according to Cliff Ireland, council member, is in honor of the men and women who have died during war or immediately thereafter. Monday’s celebration was about their service to the country and its people.
“Today isn’t about a three-day weekend,” Ireland said. “It has been set aside for those who died in service to our country. So many people have no idea what this holiday means, but it’s about the sacrifice so many have made.”
While spending time with family celebrating on Memorial Day is important, Ann Knowles, Veterans Service Officer, 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.
“Memorial Day is about remembering those that didn’t come home,” Knowles said. “It’s a very fitting service honoring those who fought for our freedoms. In Sampson County, we honor our veterans every Memorial Day, every Jan. 1 and 365 days a year. 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.”
Despite heavy rains, Knowles said she was pleased with Monday’s crowd. The celebration was moved inside the Sampson County EMS building.
“There isn’t a veteran in here that doesn’t remember a day it was raining that they didn’t go out and do their jobs and get wet,” Knowles said.
The keynote speaker for the Memorial Day celebration was retired Brigadier General W. Ray Johnson from the North Carolina Army National Guard who served in the Persian Gulf War.
“Each year, on the last Monday in May, we find ourselves reflecting and remembering those who left the comfort of their home to fight for our freedoms,” Johnson shared. “We began mourning our brothers and sisters the day they left us, and we continue to mourn them now.”
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 more than 160 names called, having served from the Civil War until today’s 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 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 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.”
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.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.