PDT Staff Writer
Ceremonies, a parade, speeches and acres of flags across a cemetery, marking the graves of those who paid the supreme sacrifice, honored our fallen heroes this Memorial Day.
The day began at 9 a.m. Monday with a short but poignant KIA-MIA ceremony in front of the veterans wall in Tracy Park in Portsmouth.
“You never want to forget the reason they died, and why they died,” said Wendell Skinner, a Vietnam veteran and emcee of the event. “These people gave their lives, and we’ve all gotten to enjoy the freedoms that come with the American way.”
The posting of the colors, the 21-gun salute and the placing of the flowers drew a good-sized crowd, made up mainly of local dignitaries, and citizens waving flags.
At 10 a.m., the parade stepped-off to at-first a sparse crowd, but a crowd that increased in size as the procession made its way up Offnere Street to Greenlawn Cemetery.
“We had an exceptionally good turn-out for the parade,” said Jim Saddler, a veteran and former Portsmouth fire chief. “We had a lot of queen candidates from throughout the county today. We had a lot of ex-military people, AMVETS, DAV, American Legions, of course, they were all here. You don’t know how much we appreciate the PHS band, too.”
At Greenlawn Cemetery the highlight of the day was the floral tribute, led by June Meade and the Ladies of the Circle. In the midst of the circle was a newly-painted Civil War soldier statue that caught everyone’s attention.
Parade grand marshal William “Bill” Combs, a former Portsmouth police officer and veteran of World War II, was seated in front of the podium at the cemetery where people shook his hand and thanked him for his service to America.
“He served in the Aleutian Islands,” Saddler said. “The Aleutian Islands were the stepping stones for the Japanese to come into the North American continent. And Bill and a bunch of his soldiers and sailors and airmen were up there to stop them. And they did stop them.”
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone welcomed those who turned out to brave the heat to be a part of the ceremony.
“We thank God for all the blessings he has given to us, in giving us this day and allowing us to be here to celebrate and honor the fallen soldiers and even those in all the auxiliaries, and all the organizations, and the officers of the James Dickey Post, for putting this fine service together,” Malone said.
State Rep. Dr. Terry Johnson R-McDermott, was the featured speaker for the event. He spoke about those who gave their lives in the Civil War.
“Those Americans saw the conflict first-hand,” Johnson told the crowd. “It was fought on American soil, and it took loved ones directly from their arms. Their anguish was wide. It was deep. And it was profound. But rather than turn their backs on the dead, instead of consigning the memories of those broken soldiers to the dark recesses of individual minds, where remembrances of epic deeds might have faded and been lost in the generations that followed, those Americans chose to collectively remember. They chose to mark the day in public with respectful recollections of servicemen who gave everything, who sacrificed their lives, who passed dramatically from this world into the arms of God, our almighty creator, entrusting to him their eternal souls, and in so doing, ensured that our nation would live on.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.