For about half an hour on a sunny, hot Memorial Day holiday Monday, a handful of Anson County citizens gathered on the town square in uptown Wadesboro to remember those who paid the ultimate price for America’s freedom.
The ceremony was held from 2:30-3 p.m. to coincide with a National Moment of Silence at 1500 hours, or 3 p.m.
World War II veteran John W. Gatewood started off the ceremony with an invocation that ended with a rousing “God bless America!” Charles Wilson, a veteran of the Vietnam War, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. James T. Bennett, 94, a veteran of World War II, gave the welcome address, while James Bennett, commander of VFW Post 10403, stated the occasion. Bennett said that Memorial Day began as a holiday to honor veterans of the Civil War, but eventually grew “to extend the honor to all American veterans.” Of course, the holiday also unofficially marks the beginning of summer for many.
Ken Caulder sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” before Anson County Veterans Services Officer Theodore P. Ward introduced the guest speaker, 1st Sgt. Yuself Roberson, a veteran of Operation: Desert Storm and Operation: Iraqi Freedom, and also the ROTC instructor at Anson High School.
Roberson is originally from Michigan, and has served in the U.S. Army in Germany, Korea, and in Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, where he ended his Army career with the 82nd Airborne. He earned two Bronze Stars, a combat action badge and many others during his long career.
“We pause to honor all generations of brave American service,” Roberson said, “people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.” Roberson said that the holiday is set aside “to publicly honor the best and the noblest of us all.”
Memorial Day is an emotional day for many Americans, he added. “Memorial Day is a day of conflicting emotions for each of us, a day of pride and mournfulness, gratitude and loss, and a deep, abiding sense of patriotism,” Roberson said.
He quoted Joshua Chamberlain, a veteran of the Civil War, from his speech on Memorial Day in 1884. “Regretfully, the sacrifices of our comrades are sometimes forgotten or disregarded,” he said, “especially by those who have gained the most from it. History has proven that, if not for those who we honor today, a heavy fist of tyranny and terror would still shackle and strangle many countries that are enjoying relatively peace and freedom, and democracy.”
Roberson said it is up to us make sure that the legacy of American’s fallen soldiers is passed down to future generations. “We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow have an awareness and understanding of whom it is they should likewise honor, and exactly why they should honor them,” he said. He added that this includes ensuring that those veterans returning from conflicts are properly cared for and honored by their communities. “Our responsibility to our veterans should not end when the last rally is over,” Roberson said. “Veterans deserve better than that.”
After Roberson’s speech, Vietnam veteran Arthur Covington read the names of Anson County servicemen who lost their lives in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The service concluded with a moment of silence as Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Burris with the N.C. National Guard laid a live wreath in memory of veterans who have lost their lives, while “TAPS” played softly in the background.
“Remember,” Ward reminded the audience, “freedom isn’t free and God bless America.”