The City of Richmond Hill, along with the local chapter of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, saluted the fallen heroes of the United States Armed Forces with a formal Memorial Day observance on Monday afternoon in J.F. Gregory Park.
About 100 people attended. Past American Legion Bill Helms said that is about triple the amount of people who attended last year.
Helms said it is important for citizens of this country to take time out on Memorial Day for those who have died for their country.
"They need to be recognized," said Helms. "Our children should be taught in schools what this day means. Many people don’t really realize the significance of this day - it’s just a day off for them. I’m encouraged by seeing the increase in attendance though. Hopefully that trend will continue in future years."
Local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Commander Harold Eckholt said Memorial Day officially started after the Civil War and has come to include the casualties of preceding wars since that time.
Army Captain David Dake, a Richmond Hill resident who is home on leave, has served in Iraq and just arrived here from Germany.
He was in the audience at the commemoration.
"It feels good to see people recognized, people I have known personally and soldiers who have served under me that have been killed in Iraq," Dake said. "To think that there are celebrations like this going on all over the country is inspiring."
The most poignant speech belonged to Mayor Richard Davis who gave a stirring tribute to veterans. He gave statistics of the number of casualties from numerous wars: 54,000 in WWI, 290,000 in WWII, 34,000 in Korea, 48,000 in Vietnam, and 3,500 so far in the war with Iraq. He ended his speech by singing Aaron Tippin’s "Stars and Stripes".
"Today our country is torn and divided over the war in Iraq… on this day, Memorial Day 2007, we are unified and united in honoring all of those who have answered the call to protect our land, our people and our values," Davis said.
"Too many take our freedom for granted," Davis continued. "They do not know how much was given by so many in order for the citizens of our country to speak freely, worship freely, be treated with equality under the law and be free of abuses by government agents."The ceremony ended with Davis and Eckholt placing a wreath in front of the display.
Throughout the ceremony, the stars and stripes were displayed by a color guard made up of RHPD’s Officer Tim Saia, Cpl. Rick Olesky, Officer Jason Dean, Lt. David Hooks and Star Cpl. Steve Potts.
Also attending were Rep. Ron Stephens, Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, County Administrator Phil Jones, Mayor Pro-Tem Floyd Hilliard, Councilman Billy Albritton, Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds, RHPD Maj. Gary Lee, Convention and Visitor's Bureau Chairman Larry Barker, Parks and Recreation Director Harvey Lashley, Planning and Zoning Director Steve Scholar, New Beginnings Pastor Steve Lane, City Manager Mike Melton, past American Legion Post Commander Lee Brown and numerous local veterans.
See video at www.bryancountynews.net.