Memorial Day 2020 was a little different than past remembrances. Usually, the downtown park is filled on this Monday holiday with 150-200 community members paying tribute to those who lost their lives in service.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing, no ceremony was held. However, about 20 individuals, including members of the VFW and American Legion, Mayor Ed Boyd, Commission Chair Glyn Thrift, Sheriff John Miles and others gathered for the traditional laying of the wreath at the Memorial on the Courthouse Lawn.
VFW Commander John Garity briefly addressed the audience, stating, “Every crisis has new heroes. During the 9/11 attacks, they were the first responders running into burning and crumbling buildings as others ran out. Now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals, who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so.
“These heroes have much in common with the people that we honor today – America’s fallen veterans. They are men and women who have sacrificed their own lives so others could live. They come from every ethnicity and background. In short, they look like anyone of us.
“As we celebrate the selfless and untiring performances of the healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it brings to mind the military medics, doctors and nurses who sacrificed their lives while treating others on the battlefield.
“Approximately one million men and women of the U.S. military have lost their lives in defense of our nation since the founding of this great Republic.
“Not all have died from enemy fire. Some have died from diseases that have too often festered around war zones. Often times, deaths from disease and accidents outnumbered casualties caused by enemy weapons.
“During the Spanish American War, 60 soldiers of the 24th Infantry Regiment volunteered to serve as nurses. Thirty-six of them would later die of yellow fever or malaria.
“A generation later, the flu would kill nearly 16,000 U.S. soldiers in France during World War I. Another 30,000 American service members died in stateside camps. These men and women could have isolated safely in their homes. However, they knew they had an important mission to accomplish; the mission to serve.
“Even when the enemy is an invisible virus or a microscopic germ, the sacrifices made are just as meaningful. The U.S. military has already lost service members to COVID-19.
“This Memorial Day as we continue to honor those who fell for us in battle, let’s also pause to remember those who have sacrificed their lives while serving others.
“May God bless them and may God bless you for remembering them here today.”
Following Garity’s comments, he and Dixie Odom, senior vice commander of VFW Post 5893, laid the wreath. Retired service members then stood at attention as ‘Taps’ was played.