By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~
Wind and rain did not keep the planned Memorial Day ceremony from happening Monday. The Boy Scouts showed up at Veterans Park just as they were supposed to, ready to set up chairs. The Honor Guard and other veterans were there, as well as many from the community. When it became apparent that the ceremony couldn’t be held outside, it was moved to the Veterans Conference Center—which typically holds 30-40 people. This time, twice that many filled the rooms, and many stood on the porch and under the carport.
It was worth it.
Veteran Ron Wallace greeted the crowd, “What we’re going to do today is imagine that we are here on a beautiful, sunny day. And we’re here in the Veterans Park with the flagpoles, under the canopy of heaven to make a tribute to our fallen soldiers, as a memorial to them. At noon the American flag is to be returned to full staff—and we are going to do that. It’s going to be a lot of symbolism and imagination—and our Flag will be raised to full staff.”
Wallace then explained the flag protocol for civilians, active duty first responders, military, veterans and civilians.
At the Park was a crew to raise the flag and report to Wallace as that happened. And it did.
“From WW I, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, and present-day conflicts, there are more than 140,000 unaccounted for. From WW II to present day, there’s more than 80,000 unaccounted for.
The U.S. flag was then posted, an improvised “Missing Man Chair” set up, as Wallace explained the order for posting the other flags, including the North Georgia Honor Guard and affiliations, then the branch flags of the military in the order they were authorized by Congress: the White Army flag, dark blue Navy flag, red flag of the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard white flag and the light blue flag of the US Air Force.
Wallace explained the American flag and the loyalty it inspires. “…So long as it flies we know we will have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The crowd joined Wallace in the Pledge. Then Rev. James Galloway gave the invocation.
Led by Wallace and Dennis Rich, the wreaths were symbolically placed.
Wallace said, “Those that we have come here to honor have been transferred to a higher command. Their departure leaves our hearts heavy with sorrow, and there exists among those who have served in this great nation, a special comradeship that those who have never served in the military will never understand. There’s a common bond of service, loneliness, hardship, and (yes) even the fear and smell of death that bonds us together.”
Wallace then introduced Keynote Speaker Dr. Tom Jordan, who served seven years in the Army Chaplaincy, was a captain in the U.S. Army and a minister 42 years.
Dr. Jordan began, “I find it an honor to be here today and yet, a very humble experience.”
After describing how most people celebrate Memorial Day and the 3-day weekend with cookouts, trips, get-togethers, graduations, and sales, he said, “There’s nothing wrong with any of those things UNLESS we forget that all of those freedoms were purchased with the life and blood of those we truly honor today.”
Dr. Jordan continued, “From its roots in Decoration Day of our Civil War, to the evolution of today, it is a reminder that freedom cost the lives of men and women who served, who gave, and who sacrificed their very lives.
“Today, we gather to say WE WILL NOT FORGET. We will remember—and not only TODAY, but EVERY DAY for our freedoms that they purchased. Freedom is not easy—it is difficult. Free government and living under it is hard; it is costly; it is expensive.
“And I am thankful today to remember those who have given their lives, and the families who suffered with that sacrifice, as well. To be able to say, ‘I am free—and for others who went to fields abroad for others who wanted freedom—who craved for it. And it could never be attained, nor maintained without great sacrifice.
“We remember today each life; each sacrifice; each drop of blood that was shed in the giving of life for freedom.”
Dr. Jordan then shared a poem written in 1981 by Kelly Strong.
Wallace then introduced Madelyn Ledbetter, a representative of the Bomber Girls, who presented a plaque to Dr. Jordan for recognition as Keynote Speaker for the North Georgia Honor Guard Memorial Day Service, May 28, 2018.
To close the ceremony, the crowd stood as the North Georgia Honor Guard Rifle Squad rendered a final gun salute from Veterans Park.
The American Flag was then displayed and folded by Bill Stodghill and Nick Wimberley, while Wallace explained the meaning of the 13 folds.
In the cramped quarters, it was difficult to recognize city and county officials, but Fannin County Schools Supt. Dr. Michael Gwatney and Manda Gwatney and Commission Chairman Stan Helton were seen.
Veterans/Honor Guard in ceremony: Ron Wallace, Chuck Clark. Chief McMillen, Bill Stodghill, Nick Wimberley, Richard Pierce, Greg Coffone, Jeff O’Neill, Tommy Lee, Delos Horton, Garnett Webb, Keith Hunter, Rev. James Galloway, Rev. Tom Jordan, Thelma Coffone, JC Wood, Dennis Rich.
Veterans and Families: Bob Renneke, Rod McIntyre, Trevor McIntyre, Bob Stevens, Larry Dyer, Mack Magrath, Manny Robles, Elaine Owen, Jim Owen, Dub Joiner, Jerry Williams, Sally Moler, Phil Avery, Betty Wood.
A Special Salute to World War II Veterans Dale Dyer and Robert Brown.