Before fireworks exploded and flashed in the night sky, a group of veterans were honored for carrying on a tradition of keeping America free.
During the Fourth of July celebration, The City of Clinton and the Recreation and Parks Department held its Veteran’s Recognition Ceremony at Royal Lane Park. Before the veterans were called to the front, Woodmen of the World, a nonprofit fraternal benefit group, donated a folded flag to the park. Jonathan Allen, park and rec director, spoke to the audience about donation. Every flag in the park comes from Woodmen of the World.
“We will fly this flag with honor,” Allen said before “America The Beautiful” by Ray Charles was played.
The insurance-based organization provides American and state flags to nonprofits, youth groups, schools, churches and community centers. Since 1947, millions of flags have been presented.
Clinton City Manager Tom Hart served as the guest speaker and spoke about the history the holiday, dating back to 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, which announced that 13 colonies would no longer be under British rule. Hart emphasized the importance of men and women who served dating back to the American Revolutionary War. He quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt who said “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”
“We must remember that we were not always free and we will not remain so, if not for the service men and women of this county,” Hart said. “So we’re also here to remember their achievements, their courage and dedication and to say ‘thank you.’”
The crowd clapped as the veterans made their way near the flag pole and stood together. Their family was recognized as well.
“Thank you for answering the call of duty,” Hart said. “And we all know when someone answer’s the country’s call there is a sacrifice made, not only by them, but by their loved ones too.”
Hart added that people in the military come from all walks of life, but share fundamental qualities such as courage, determination, selflessness, and dedication.
“Qualities necessary to serve a cause greater than themselves,” he said. “Millions of Americans have fought and died on battle fields defending that radical idea of sovereignty and self-government and the American way of life. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting, they were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
He also honored fallen soldiers as well. After his remarks, a wreath was placed at the Wall of Veterans, as Avon Jones played “Taps.”
“We award medals and build monuments to honor their bravery, but of course we know that nothing can never fill the whole left behind by a fallen service member,” Hart said. “We know that medals and ribbons offer scarce comfort. So we must only ask them to step into harm’s way judiciously. We must be willing to make our own sacrifices to ease theirs and we must embrace them as our fellow country men and women.”
For Hart, the presence of people in the park is a tribute and a way to honor soldiers from all wars.
“People are gathered throughout the country today to celebrate this great country,” Hart said. “Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame that burns across the nation today and every day.”
Robert Lee Brown Sr. was one of several veterans honored at the ceremony. He served during the Vietnam War as a soldier in the U.S. Army. After returning home in the early 70s, he served in the North Carolina National guard from 1973 through 2005.
“I enjoy what they’re doing for us by recognizing all of the veterans and all the sacrifices that we do for our country,” Brown said.
Jeffrey Salter, a local entrepreneur, also showed appreciation for the ceremony and Independence Day. He is currently serving in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Fort Bragg.
“I fell honored,” Salter said. “It’s my favorite day of the year. This is the birth of our country, so it’s a very special day.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.