The Memorial Day event in Portsmouth was one of the best-attended in recent years, and the master of ceremonies, Rich Saddler, read the biography of his father, Jim Saddler, who passed away this past year, because the program was dedicated to Saddler’s memory.
The day’s festivities began with a short KIA-MIA ceremony by the monument in Tracy Park. Minutes later a parade left the park and traveled south of Chillicothe Street, east on Gallia Street and north on Offnere Street to Greenlawn Cemetery.
The main speaker at the ceremony in Greenlawn Cemetery was Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware who told those in attendance, “freedom comes with a cost. It is not free.”
Ware said the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War was a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks who was killed on March 5, 1770. He said the latest person to die in service to his country is Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles H. Keating IV of San Diego, California
“In between, over 1.3 million people have given their lives for our country,” Ware said. “They were men, women, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. They were black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Polynesian, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Pacfic Islander, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Cuban, Filipino, Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese and more. They come from various religious backgrounds and socio-economic classes.”
He said it was those who have given their lives for their country that inspire millions of people to want to come to America.
“You see, America is the beacon of hope for the oppressed, the beacon of hope for those who seek opportunity, the beacon of hope for those who want to be free,” Ware said. “They long to come to this nation because it is a place where equality, justice and liberty are inherent rights.”
Ware said it is up to everyone present at the ceremony to ensure America’s legacy endures. He said the next generation needs to be taught the importance of service to country and to understand through their own sacrifices, they can bring happiness and opportunity to those less fortunate.
“Borrowing a line from our National Anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ in this line, Francis Scott Key describes America as the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Ware told the crowd. “Freedom evokes bravery, and it’s bravery that provides freedom. Because of those we honor today, the bells of freedom still ring.”
After the Greenlawn ceremony, people gathered at the Court Street Landing. Sam McKibben led the Lost at Sea Memorial Service ceremony, which honored members of the armed forces who lost their lives in the sea services. A wreath was dropped from a boat to float down river in honor of those in the sea services. The ceremony was also in honor of Jim Saddler.
“With my father being in the Navy, this portion I would like to dedicate to him as well for his Naval service,” Rich Saddler said.
The last event of the day was the Firefighter’s Memorial at the Central Fire Station, where the names of five firefighters who died in the line of duty were named and a bell rung in honor of each one. In addition, the fire department honored two of its own who passed away this past year – Saddler and Shawn Gee.
“I don’t know anyone who can truly claim to be a self-made person,” Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison said. “All of us, somewhere along the way, had someone come along beside us and show us and teach us. Sometimes giving us a hand up. That’s what those men were to us.”
Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb summed up the days activities
“I think it’s an important day in the city of Portsmouth,” Kalb told the Daily Times. “A lot of people feel the same. We have a big crowd here. It’s a beautiful day for the ceremony.”
other communities in the region also staged events for Memorial Day including parades on Saturday in Wheelersburg and Monday in Minford.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.