Memorial Day service honors local fallen
Gathering highlights community’s contribution to the preservation of our freedom
A community gathering witnessed a poignant and patriotic veterans Memorial Day service at the Eugene Woods Civic Center in West Memphis Thursday evening. The event served to kick off the holiday weekend. Veterans turned out representing state and local organizations. The Academies of West Memphis Band, under the direction of Cathy Williams, played patriotic music punctuating the program with the national anthem and Taps, and accompanied Fire Chief Wayne Gately as he sang Proud to be an American. The Jr. ROTC presented the colors in with a snappy parade.
City Councilwoman Lorraine Robinson presided as Master of Ceremonies. Students from Wonder Jr. High served as ushers for the ceremonies. City Jr. Clerk Patricia Lane, a veteran, extended greetings from the Governor reading his Memorial Day proclamation. Tamara Hood stirred the crowd with her poetic interpretation of “Freedom is not Free.”
Photos by John Rech A somber spirit came over the crowd as William Milliner and Jeff Carter presented each aspect of the missing man table set for display at the back of the auditorium.
American Legion Commander Jim Fiveash and Elvin Tate made a roll call of 104 comrades who gave their lives for the country.
Slides with the names, ranks and service photos of each veteran flashed on a huge overhead screen as the crowd listened in reverent silence.
Retired Colonel Nate Todd, Director of the Arkansas State Department of Veteran Affairs, delivered the key note memorial address. He acknowledged Veterans of each war and conflict from World War II by having them stand for a salute from the crowd. He shared personal recollections of a relative named Sonny and his family experience with the Vietnam.
“His draft letter came in the mail; mamma cried,” said Todd. “We gathered together and prayed. Six month later he was in Vietnam. He came back. He drank some. I suspect that happened in families across Arkansas. Families stood in the gap. Arkansans are going to go to church, go to work, and make sure their kids go to school. Sonny went and found a job to work too. Our families supported us and encouraged us after the Vietnam era.
After we pulled out of Vietnam, they watched us play basketball and football, and encouraged us on. Then, the veterans got married, went to church, went to work and had their own children and we went into
an era of peace.” Todd stated 1,500
Arkansans join the military each year.
“It’s what America is; this is a great country,” said Todd as he turned to school aged students in the room.
“We count on you to become physicians, lawyers, band directors. Some of you will answer the call to serve our country. As you can see, by this ceremony, we will not forget you.”
Crye-Leike Broker Anita Bell delivered closing remarks, thanking the steering committee that produced the first Crittenden County Memorial program and addressed the veterans on hand with paraphrase of 2 Timothy 4:7.
“Our Apostle Paul wrote, you have fought the good fight, you have finished the course and you have certainly kept the faith,” said Bell. “ May God bless each of you and may God bless the USA.”
By John Rech