Hundreds of people gathered Friday at Aversboro Road Baptist Church to participate in the Town of Garner’s Veterans Day Observance. They left the event having honored, remembered and appreciated the men and women who fought for our freedoms and those men and women who protect us today.
The Garner Magnet High School Wind Ensemble played. People prayed. Small flags were waved. Hearts were stirred. Children impressed. And the community’s veterans were honored.
Lt. General (Ret.) Michael S. Tucker summarized the need for Veterans Day when he recalled that former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said that a nation can be judged by the soldiers it produces, the soldiers that it honors and the soldiers that it remembers.
“It is important to remember,” said Early Iannello, who brought her 9-year-old son Pierce and his 5-year-old sister Viktoria to the nearby Garner Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day for a tour of the monument to learn, to honor, to remember and to respect.
“I want my children to honor these people who fought and died for us.”
Best-selling author Stephen Ambrose once wrote that the United States Army during World War II not only was the best fighting force ever assembled, it was the most compassionate and the most forgiving.
Tom Brokaw called the WWII veterans – there were about a half dozen at Friday’s observance – the Greatest Generation, not only for defeating evil, but for building a peace.
But Tucker said families today are producing the next greatest generation. Part of that greatness will come from remembering the price paid by others.
Tucker recalled touring a Korean War battle site and seeing 30 busloads of children from nearby Seoul arriving for tours. He was told that South Koreans believe it is was important for its children to know and understand the sacrifices that had been made to keep freedom.
The sacrifices still are being made. Tucker noted that there are more than 11,000 Gold Star Families in North Carolina. Gold Star Families are those who have had a close relative killed while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
The observance ended for most people as Garner’s Dana Stephenson Dixon, a former Miss North Carolina, stirred hearts with a rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Taps added a hauntingly beautiful end.
Some of the crowd attended a luncheon on the grounds. Others went to the Rand-Bryan House, where some military personnel got married on Veterans Day. Many went home.
A few made the mile-long trip to the Veterans Memorial.
Iannello and her children were there. They had not attended the ceremony, but she wanted her children to have a hands-on experience in remembering.
Spencer Cardwell, the tour guide, walked them through the monument, explaining the symbolism, pointing out bricks that honor military personnel, and noting the names of the military dead that are engraved there.
What Pierce said he will remember most, though, are the large red, clay-like tablets on the backside of the narration of North Carolina’s military history. The panels were molded by area red clay.
They represent the soldiers who never came back.
David Bryant Harrison, for example, died in a Richmond hospital during the Civil War. No one knows where he is buried. Oliver Westbrook, Jr., perished in a plane crash in World War II and his body wasn’t recovered. Charles Russell Boone was killed aboard a submarine.
“From dirt to dirt,” said Caldwell, the tour guide. “In the early wars so many of our boys left the farm and the soil to serve their country. Some never returned here, but they returned to the land.”
Caldwell recalled giving a tour to blind students and watching them rub their hands in the swirls, dips and curves molded into the panels. They traced the engravings with their fingers, experiencing the memorial in a special way.
They learned in their own way about a memorial and about remembering heroes.
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org