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Pembroke celebrates Memorial Day
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 164, others honor heroes
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Most of the country had already observed Memorial Day by the time the ladies of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 164 kicked off their first annual ceremony commemorating the holiday.

There was good reason for waiting a week, said the auxiliary’s Cindy Milloy, a Navy veteran and the group’s first vice president.

"There was just so much going on (on May 24), with high school graduation in the morning and the American Legion taps dedication in the afternoon," she said. "We were also doing a poppy drive that weekend, so we really didn’t want to interfere with the other activities going on."

Instead, the group’s first Memorial Day ceremony, which took place a day removed from the holiday's traditional date of May 30, took center stage Saturday in front of a crowd of about 50 people in downtown Pembroke.

There, they heard speeches, music from Mark Crowe and a history of the holiday from auxliary members, including President Susie Magee and Air Force vet Jana Smolinsky.

The ceremony got high marks from all involved.

"I thought it was beautiful," said Auxliary President Susie Magee.

Dave Williams, scoutmaster of troop 357, and his scouts gave a history of both the MIA flag and the song taps.

Scouts also helped Amerian Legion Post 164 President Billy Marshall lay the ceremonial wreath in remembrance of those who died in U.S. wars.

Pembroke Mayor Pro-Tem Johnnie Miller briefly recalled Vietnam being "hot" when he got out of high school and went into the military.

"This is a time for us to reflect," he said, "and remember the people who fought in all wars. It’s a time we set aside in order to remember those who served their country."

It’s also a holiday brought into sharper focus because of the ongoing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, according to City Councilwoman Angela Reed, who also spoke along with Councilman Tony Greeson. Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook was out of town.

"My son left yesterday to go to Germany," Reed said. "He’s in the Air Force, he’s going to be doing some medivacs into Afghanistan. I hope you keep him lifted up in your prayers and thoughts."

Greeson, also a veteran, said the event made him proud of his service and that of others. And along with Miller and Reed, he thanked the American Legion, the Auxiliary and members of the scout troop for their job in putting on the ceremony, which ended when scout Daniel Huerd played taps.

"Keep all the soldiers in our prayers," Greeson said, "and hope the good Lord looks after our soldiers and brings them home safe."

Reed wasn’t the only one at the ceremony with a family member headed overseas.

Five new flags flew atop crosses handmade by Bob Quattlebaum, many hand lettered by 13-year-old Nicki Wilkes.

Included in that number was a flag and cross for James Edsel Newman, an Air National Guard veteran who served in Korea.

Newman’s son-in-law, Jerry Collins, placed flowers at the site of the cross. He said his wife Janet had planned on being at the ceremony to place the flowers.

She instead was with their daughter Carla after her husband Logan, an Army officer, went back to Iraq on Saturday. He had been on leave while his wife gave birth to their son Will.

Reed said the flags and crosses remind her of the sacrifices being made today.

"There are a lot of men and women over there right now, fighting for us, fighting for this country," she said. "These flags, every time I walk by them or drive by on my bike, it’s just an emotional time for me as well, I’m sure, as it is for you. Everybody here seems to be affected. Memorial Day seems to be a more meaningful thing when there’s a war going on."


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