More than 100 people came out on a rain-soaked holiday weekend to join city and military leaders in honoring the nation's fallen soldiers.
Because of the weather, most of Monday morning's Richmond Hill Memorial Day Observance was held in the pavilion at J.F. Gregory Park. As skies cleared, participants moved to the Veterans Monument, where Mayor Russ Carpenter and Col. Jason Wolter laid a wreath at the site, and the 3rd ID color guard presented a 21-gun salute.
The event concluded with the playing of Taps by Richmond Hill Police Department First Sgt. Tim Saia.
With an estimated 1.3 million American service members dying in the Revolutionary War through today's War on Terror, Carpenter said, "consequently then, we have more than 1 million reasons to be here today.”
He added, "May our city always do its part to honor the memory of those lost and the loved ones that remained.”
Wolter, Garrison Commander at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, was the guest speaker and paid his respect to everyone who has worn a uniform and to Gold Star families, the relatives of fallen soldiers.
“We are honored to stand with you on this solemn, sacred day," Wolter said. "We are humbled by your sacrifice, inspired by your resilience, and grateful for your continued service to our communities.”
He added, "We must remember the names and the stories of those who sacrificed. It is our sacred duty to ensure they’re not lost in history."
Wolter said Memorial Day provides us the opportunity to "stop, thank and pay tribute to brave soldiers," but, he said, we should do more than just honor them on this day.
"It is our responsibility, the responsibility of a grateful nation to look back." He quoted President Calvin Coolidge, who said, 'The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.' "
Georgia State Rep. Ron Stephens was the first speaker and said, "When we talk about the ultimate sacrifices, we sometimes forget the families."
He referred to a conversation he had with his mother in law. Stephens said she told him, "People forget about the things the family goes through when they lose a loved one defending our country."
With a one-year-old child and another on the way, she lost her husband on Dec. 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"So, today as we remember those folks that allow us to sleep in our beds securely at night, let’s remember those families," Stephens said.
Steve George, commander of VFW Post 7331 in Richmond Hill, also took the podium and thanked everyone in attendance for their service. He asked for a show of hands indicating the number of active or retired military in the audience.
There were several.
He then asked families of service members to raise their hands.
An even larger number did.