SPIVEY’S CORNER — With the assistance of local Boy Scouts, Dr. Michelle Warren was honored to a lay a red, white and blue wreath next to the Blue Star Memorial.
“I’m very proud to have served in the Air Force and to be a part of this community,” Warren said.
Warren, a former flight surgeon, was one of many who paid tribute during the third annual Memorial Day Ceremony sponsored by the Just-A-Mere Garden Club, held at the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department.
“As I grow older and see how our country has changed, it means more and more to me,” Warren said. “I’m deeply grateful to those who are now actively serving.”
During the weekend, many people around the United States will have a day off for Memorial Day, which was established to remember those who died in active military service. Warren thinks it’s often overlooked.
“We really need to find a way to spread the understanding to our younger generation,” Warren said. “We need to help spread the word to respect those in the military and what they go through.”
Percy M. Kirby Sr. and Darryl Price of American Legion Post 319 in Clinton, enjoyed the ceremony and believes there should be more occasions to honor veterans. Kirby, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Navy, felt like it was his duty to serve.
“The freedoms that we have, a lot of countries and people don’t have them,” Kirby said.
While mentioning the freedoms that Americans enjoy, Kirby was not reluctant to discuss racial matters and his feelings about discrimination and being a black veteran.
“We’ve all been over there, but it seems like when you come back home, some people really don’t care what you done or the sacrifices that you made,” Kirby said. “It hurts a bit, but I still hold my head up. I still have hope.”
Kirby also shared his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that many soldiers returning home have to deal with. After dealing with issues involving drugs and alcohol, he overcame PTSD through help from hospitals and counselors.
“It’s made a big difference,” he said. “Now I can come out to events like this and socialize with people. Before I couldn’t do those things because I was caught up in that other world.”
During the Vietnam War era, Kirby believes his family may have died from complications such as Agent Orange.
“A lot of guys are suffering and they are not aware it,” he said. “A lot of people are not helping them become aware of their problems, so they can be treated. Some guys are just lost out in the street and it’s a shame that veterans who have served their country are treated that way.”
As a veteran, Price was thankful to have a strong wife to help him through struggles with PTSD. The Marine Corps veteran agreed when it comes to people forgetting about the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is to remember those who died while serving.
“It’s commercialized with sales and stuff like that,” Price said. “They forget what the real reason is.”
During the ceremony, Sybil West of Just-A-Mere Garden Club, was joined by Sara Jackson who served on the committee and was instrumental in securing the American flags. Jackson also made provisions for an ice cream social enjoyed by the attendees.
“Today was a beautiful and perfect to pay tribute to our veterans,” West said. “It was a great turnout for our third event.”
Like the veterans, West believes that Memorial Day should be observed and celebrated for the right reasons. Her late husband, Hoyt West, served in the U.S. Army.
“I think we need to keep it in the eyes of the public so our youth will be aware of the sacrifices made by the veterans and those who didn’t come back,” West said. “We must remember them.”
West said many people think Memorial Day is just a holiday for leisure activities such as going to the beach. It’s one of the reasons the club hosted the event on Thursday.
Charles Ryals, a veteran the Army National Guard, indicated that it’s a tradition that has to continue.
“It’s not being taught in schools like it should be,” Ryals said regarding the sacrifices of those who served.
Ryals father was in the military and years later, the Johnston County native followed.
“It was my duty and obligation,” he said while standing near flags flapping in the wind.
Mike Beasley, a veteran of the U.S. Army and member of Dunn’s American Legion Post 59, served in the Vietnam War and said it was his duty. During the observance, he showed his gratitude to his fallen comrades by mentioning how “Freedom isn’t free.”
“It’s to remember the ones that are not here,” Beasley said while mentioning Memorial Day and history dating back to the Revolutionary War. “We should never forget, that some gave all.”