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As Memorial Day approaches, a trail of flags helps a town remember its sacrifices

Memorial Day wreath laying at State Capitol

The Tar Heel Detachment 733 of the Marine Corps League Department of North Carolina hosted a wreath-laying ceremony Memorial Day morning to honor all veterans at the War Memorial on the north lawn of the State Capitol.
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The Tar Heel Detachment 733 of the Marine Corps League Department of North Carolina hosted a wreath-laying ceremony Memorial Day morning to honor all veterans at the War Memorial on the north lawn of the State Capitol.

Sixty-six United States flags are flying along the 1.2-mile walking trail at Garner’s Lake Benson Park this week in honor of the community’s men who have been killed in military service.

The flags, one for each man, have been placed every 80 feet. A medal tag listing each man’s name, rank, conflict and military branch hangs from each flag.

The path winds past Lake Benson, meanders by a big red barn and through a patch of woods before bisecting the Garner Veterans Memorial. The memorial’s two-sided panels, which list the community’s fallen, both shine with white granite and seem to have burst from the red clay earth, a reminder of remembrance and of anticipation.

Katie Lockhart, the outdoor education and park manager of the Garner Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, said the flags help immerse the hundreds of people who walk the trails each week in preparation for the approaching Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

“It is our hope that people who walk by these flags will pause to remember the sacrifice that so many have made — and continue to make — to protect our many freedoms,” Lockhart said.

“These are the people that Memorial Day is meant to honor.”

The Town of Garner provided the flags, Show N Tell Ministries provided the medal tags and chains and the Travis Manion Foundation erected the flags.

The Manion Foundation is a national non-profit whose objective is to empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations. Many of the volunteers who planted the flags were veterans.

‘It was very humbling to put up the flags, “said Erik Shepard, a Manion chapter leader who organized erecting the flags. “It was a lot of fun, being there working with other veterans. But it was also sobering. You’d plant the flag and then finger the dog tag. It was very meaningful. Very personal.”

The volunteers made digging in the hard soil a family event with children working alongside the adults.

“The Manion Foundation is about teaching the next generation about having character,” Shepard said. “I think we were very fortunate to have this opportunity.”

The flags are the first part of a busy Memorial Day season.

The Town of Garner’s official Memorial Day observation will be at Lake Benson Park on Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Shepard, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002-2006 and later was a military contractor for 40 months, will be the keynote speaker. He grew up in Garner and graduated from Southeast Raleigh High and UNC-Greensboro.

Salute to the Troops

On Saturday, June 2, the annual Garner Veterans Memorial Salute to the Troops will be held at Aversboro Road Baptist Church. The Salute will feature an encore presentation of “Duty,” an original play about the eight men from Garner who lost their lives in Vietnam. Three of the eight men earned Silver Star medals, the nation’s third highest military medal, and two others were awarded Bronze Stars.

There is no admission fee.

Tim Stevens: Timstevens710@gmail.com

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