By Betsy Finklea
Despite the heat, a nice crowd turned out to remember our fallen soldiers at a Memorial Day ceremony held at Veterans Square on Monday, hosted by the Dillon County Veterans Organization.
Maj. General James E. Lockemy gave the welcome and opening remarks followed by the posting of the colors by the Dillon High School JROTC. Rev. Matthew D. Adams of the First Presbyterian Church in Dillon gave the invocation. Lataurean Brigman, a member of the Dillon High School JROTC, sang the national anthem.
Photos by Johnnie Daniels/The Dillon Herald
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The flags were hoisted by MSGT Terry Morris (U.S. Flag), Seaman Tony Peele (MIA/POW Flag), and George Pullie and SFC Harry Moore (South Carolina Flag).
Sgt. Ronnie Stone led the pledge of allegiance.
Jackson Stone performed “America The Beautiful” on saxaphone.
Sgt. Major John Harlow introduced the guest speaker 1SGT Rodney Hardee of the S.C. National Guard.
Hardee said for a great number of Americans, Memorial Day marks the beginning of family vacations, 30 percent off sales, and three-day weekends, but for those who served and many others, it is a day to remember those who died in service to our country.
He gave a brief history of the origins of Memorial Day, which was originally known as Decoration Day.
He gave the numbers on wars and actions where service people were killed in action:
World War I-116,516
World War II-405,399
Enduring Freedom (current action)-2,351
He said there had been 1.3 million military deaths since the founding of our country.
He asked why are these people willing to pay such a price? What makes such a person?
He quote this from the third verse of America The Beautiful, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
He said these people knew that our way of life ad freedom were worth serving and dying for.
He recalled some locals who lost their lives including David Bullard, who he called a hero in every sense of the word; Edward Philpot, who he said had a great sense of his love for God, family, and country, and who had a great sense of humor; Anthony Owens, who was awarded a bronze star and Purple Heart; and Cody Tyler, who was wounded and who he said that his wounds got the best of him.
He said that today during barbecues and other events, we need to remembers those soldiers who died in service to this country. “This is their day,” he said. “Soldiers will never die until we forget them. Let’s never forget them,” Hardee said.
Major General Lockemy then read the roll call of veterans who had passed away since the last service. The number totaled 72. As he read the names, a bell tolled for each month.
After this, Judge Lockemy presented the Distinguished Award to the family of a deceased veteran. The Dillon County Veterans of the Year Organization intends to present this award each Memorial Day. This is the first year of the award. This was awarded to the family of Sergeant Major Charles Russell Lee. Lee was a decorated Korean War veteran having received both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant in a single tour of combat duty. He then served 38 years with the SC National Guard, where retired as Sergeant Major. (More of Judge Lockemy’s comments on Lee will appear on www.thedillonherald.com.)
Lee’s wife, Sarah, and sons Russell and Mac, accepted the award. Mac called his father “a tough act to follow.” Russell said his father appreciated Dillon County and the community and the military. The family was very appreciative of the award as they said that Lee never sought recognition.
After the award presentation, MSGT Terry Morris and Seaman Tony Peele laid the Memorial wreath. A three-volley rifle salute to deceased veterans was done by Sgt. Raymond Mack, Staff Sgt. Lon Bowers, and Captain Charlie Caldwell.
Taps was played by MSGT James Leslie.
The Dillon High School JROTC retired the colors. Jackson Stone played “Amazing Grace” on the saxaphone. Rev. Matthew D. Adams concluded the ceremony with the benediction and blessing of the food.