NEW BERN, N.C. (June 9, 2011) --
Dozens of senior men filed into the New Bern National Cemetery with serious, stern looks on their faces. Many of them wore veteran’s hats, displayed with a solemn pride that they had served their country in times of war during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They came to pay respects to the friends they served with but had not made it back.
Taps played at cemeteries across the country and at the New Bern National Cemetery May 30 as part of the Memorial Day remembrance of American service members, who fought and died in wars across the world. The Craven County Veterans Council organized the event with dignitaries who made speeches, conducted a wreath lying ceremony; and Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, who fired a 21-gun salute and played Taps.
Many participants of the ceremony said their appreciation of service members who died in America’s wars stems from the freedoms they died to protect.
“It’s the soldiers, not the reporter, that gives you freedom of the press,” said James Ward, chairman of the Craven County Veterans Council, during his remarks. “It’s the soldier, not the politician, who gives you freedom of speech. It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who allows you to demonstrate. It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, serves the flag, and whose coffin is draped with the flag, who allows the protestors to burn the flag. It’s a beautiful sight I see out here, everyone coming to honor those who have given their lives for us to be able to do this or anything we want to in the United States.”
Service members in the past and present have put their life on the line fighting for their country. Memorial Day is a day for American citizens to pay their respects to those who have fallen.
“Everybody should take a minute out of their time and pay respects to our brothers and sisters who we lost in other countries the United States has sent them, to defend and serve us,” said Rusty Clark, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a corporal in the North Carolina National Guard. “We need to reach out more to young people so the day isn’t about going out and barbecuing, being out of school or off of work, it’s really something special and we should pass it on to more generations.”
One of the recurring themes during the ceremony was the human cost of the wars to preserve those freedoms. North Carolina Rep. Norman W. Sanderson stated that more than one million service members have died in battle since the American Revolution in 1775. While the cost of freedom has been high, remembrance of the price makes it mean something.
“Let us never forget that under these stones there are dreams that will never be fulfilled, there are books that will never be written, there are songs that will never be sung, they gave the price for you and I so that we might enjoy the freedom that we have,” said Sanderson. “There’s a quote that says, ‘we are what we remember.’ If we remember the cost of freedom, we will remain free. Our freedom can never be taken from us, but we can give it away. Let’s not give it away. Let’s not make the sacrifices of one million men and women to no avail.”
A new generation of troops does remember and will keep the memory of past service members alive.
“It was a great honor to be able to pay respect for the people that have come before me and let me sleep safe in my bed at night,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth Boatwright, the bugler at the ceremony. “I appreciate the old soldiers because without them serving before my time, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve my country, and the country might not even be here without their willingness to lay down their lives.”