Wake County

More than cookouts and picnics: People gather to remember the fallen on Memorial Day

People gather to remember the fallen on Memorial Day

People gathered for the Memorial Day remembrance event at the North Carolina Capitol lawn to lay a wreath and remember those who died. Sergeant Major Holly C. Prafke spoke at the event.
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People gathered for the Memorial Day remembrance event at the North Carolina Capitol lawn to lay a wreath and remember those who died. Sergeant Major Holly C. Prafke spoke at the event.

Phyllis Fish wasn't able to place a flag on her father's grave this Memorial Day. She's never seen the place where he is buried.

Her father, Henry Tilton Barlow Jr., died during War World II and was buried in Belgium.

One day, she hopes, she'll be able to visit his grave.

Fish attended Monday's wreath-laying ceremony at the North Carolina State Capitol to remember him and other military members who were killed.

"It's just showing respect for those families who are serving and keeping us free every day," she said. "I think we all need to stop and think about what it really means. It doesn't mean just cookouts and picnics. It's more than that."

The light rain didn't stop hundreds of people — including Gov. Roy Cooper — from gathering on the Capitol lawn to lay a wreath at the N.C. Veterans Monument. The keynote speaker was Sgt. Maj. Holly Prafke, who outlined the history of Memorial Day. Now retired, Prafke served more than 30 years in the Marine Corps. and received the Meritorious Service Medal, among others.

Before the ceremony, Cooper stopped to shake hands with veterans and their families and thanked them for their service.

North Carolina is the "most friendly military state in the country," he said, adding it was important to show respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. North Carolina is home to several military bases, including two of the country's largest, the Army's Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune.

"You know the least we can do is show them our support," Cooper said. "I am able to be where I want, say what I want, vote how I want and run for office because of the sacrifice of the men and women who help keep this country free."

In addition to many veterans and their families, several children in uniform attended Monday's ceremony as part of the Capitol City Young Marines, a youth leadership organization.

"Kids don't always have that appreciation (of the military), so I think it's important to show the kids that we should respect those who have served and those who have been lost," said Doug Smith, one of the volunteers within the Young Marines group. "We have what we have because of their sacrifice."

Smith, a Navy veteran, married into a Gold Star family and said Memorial Day hits close for him and his family.

"Personally, it's a hard day," he said. "My wife couldn't come this morning. It's almost too much for her. So personally it hits home for us. With my son being a Young Marine I do my best to explain that he's not just sitting back and observing. It's real-life for him. His uncle is gone because of his sacrifice, and we try to pass this along to the other Young Marines who may not have a personal connection to Memorial Day."

Ingrid Alexis, who has a son in the Young Marines, said she has several family members who have served in the military, past and present, and they make it a point to attend Memorial Day events every year.

"People have trouble appreciating other people's sacrifice and people protecting their rights," Alexis said. "People get tied up in the issues that are going on in the country and don't recognize there is something greater that binds us together. These people are protecting the thing that binds us together."

This was the 25th year that the Tarheel Detachment No. 733 of the Marine Corps League has organized the wreath-laying ceremony at the Capitol lawn. Junior Vice Commandant Randal Rempfer said he hopes the people who choose to go to the beach or have a cook-out take a moment to realize they are able to spend time together because of the men and women who died to preserve that freedom.

"It's just to remember the sacrifices and remember those who fought to have this day and time together," Rempfer said.



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