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Memorial Day 2021: Local Veterans, Community Remember Those Who Paid The Ultimate Price For Our Freedoms

The few trickles of rain that fell Monday morning did not deter Hopkins County veterans and community members gathered on the downtown square Monday morning, May 31, 2021, to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms – military personnel from all branches of service whose lives were lost during any US war.

The event began at 9 a.m. with the lowering of the flags from each branch of the military.

A prayer for strength, comfort and guidance for all who serve in the Armed Forces and the “walking wounded among us,” and blessing for them and their families was offered. Peace among nations and mercy upon this land, and thanksgiving for past goodness on the country, protection for the men and women defending the country, and to turn all to the Holy Word and true peace, were also prayed for.

The Hopkins County Marine Corps League Judge Advocate read a statement from a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force about the importance of Memorial Day. While many will enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers with family and friends, or even time on the lake, Memorial Day’s true intent is about much more than a day off from work.

“Every hot dog, every burger, every spin around the lake with friends is a death purchased by others. This is not about all who served. That day comes in the fall. This one is in honor of those who paid in life and blood , whose moms never saw them again, whose dads wept in private, whose wives raised kids alone and whose kids only remembered them from pictures. This isn’t simply a day off. This is a day to remember that others paid the price for every free breath you take – and that’s freedom,” he read.

The judge advocate also shared some notices he’s received over the years from friends. Russell Cornish, who upon graduation from college with an MBA in the spring of 1967, then immediately enlisted in the Army, infantry training and arrived in Vietnam in Feb. 1968, and killed by enemy small arms fire two months later. He received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

“I’ve never known anyone with greater promise than Russ. Therefore, as we approach Memorial Day, and we appropriately consider the immense sacrifices made by some Americans to help ensure liberty for their fellow citizens, I’ll contemplate who Russ was, what he accomplished in his brief 25 years, what his future likely would have included and the potential he had for significant accomplishments enhancing the greater good,” he read.

AFC Corning never benefitted from the advantages his generation has enjoyed thanks to the freedom he and 58,000 of his comrades in arms never benefitted from.

“Let us be forever grateful for their service and sacrifices,” he said.

He recalled another friend’s account of his father, Arvin H. Messinger, a few years ago. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1942, was a forward scout and sharp shooter, who flew combat missions in Guam, Guadalcanal and other small islands in the Pacific, and afterward suffered from shell shock (now known as PTSD) and spent time in medical care due to a mortar shell landing in close proximity to him. He returned to California and was assigned as an MP at Camp Pendleton, before being mustered out December 1945.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was held May 30, 1868, as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civic War. A crowd of 5,000 gathered to decorate the graves of over 20,000 military personnel buried in Arlington National Cemetery with flowers. Ulysses S. Grant presided over ceremonies. Children of soldiers made their way through the cemetery putting flowers on Union and Confederate graves while singing hymns. Many in attendance at Decoration Day brought picnic lunches.

After World War 1, the observance was expanded to honor all veterans who died in any American War. In 1971, Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day and Congress passed an act declaring it a national holiday. It was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May, in what became known as the Uniform Monday Act. New York was the first to adopt it, while Southern states had their own day to honor Confederate soldiers.

The HCMCL Judge Advocate also read from the proclamation issued by President Joe Biden designating May 31, 2021, as Memorial Day, “a day of prayer for permanent peace,” and designated 11 a.m. as a time for people to unite in prayer and reflection, then to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. Flags on all state buildings, grounds and naval vessels were to be lowered to half-staff until noon Memorial Day, and residents were urged to display flags at half-staff at their homes for the “customary forenoon period.”

“On Memorial Day, we honor and reflect upon the courage, integrity, and selfless dedication of the members of our Armed Forces who have made the greatest sacrifice in service to our Nation.  Whether in the waters of the Pacific, on the beachheads of Europe, in the deserts of the Middle East, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members have given their lives to uphold our Constitution and to defend the safety and freedoms of our citizens.  These patriots embody the best of the American spirit. They put themselves on the line for our shared values — for duty, honor, country — and they paid the ultimate price.  Our Nation can never fully repay the debt we owe to our fallen heroes and their families,” the proclamation reads.

Taps was played as the US flag was lowered, with those present saluting. A rider-less horse stood in front of a display of crosses, designated to represent the fallen soldiers from every US war.

Taps will also be sounded Nationwide at 3 p.m. during the National Moment of Remembrance. Locally, it is scheduled to be played on square at 3 p.m. May 31, 2021, by Kelley Fletcher. More tan 4,000 people, all over America, have registered to sound Taps at 3 p.m. Memorial Day 2021.

Author: Faith Huffman

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