05/27/14 — Never, ever, forgotten

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Never, ever, forgotten

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on May 27, 2014 1:46 PM


Army veteran Carroll Overton salutes during the playing of taps at the veterans memorial service Monday afternoon at the Veterans Memorial on Walnut Street. The ceremony capped a day of remembrance for those men and women who gave their lives for freedom.

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David Williams, left, and Don Peters stand during the Memorial Day Ceremony held at the Paramount Theatre Monday morning. Both of the men are Marine Corps veterans.

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Medal of Honor winner Joe Marm speaks at the Memorial Day service Monday afternoon at the Wayne County Veterans Memorial.

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Judge Timothy Finan

For a moment, it was as if Judy Britt was back in the early 1970s -- finding out that her brother's best friend had been killed all over again.

"It's like going back in time," she said. "I remember the Marines came to the door and told us he had been killed. They wanted us to go to the high school and tell his brother."

Ms. Britt was among the fewer than 100 Wayne County residents who converged on the Paramount Theatre Monday to honor those who fell in service to their country.

But her brother's best friend was only one of the people she showed up to honor.

"I lost friends in Vietnam and to complications from Vietnam," she said. "This day is just to remember the vets and soldiers. It's just really about that."

And the losses are still coming.

"We just recently had a service for a friend who died from complications," Ms. Britt said, adding that he was a victim of Agent Orange exposure. "We had a burial for him."

Experiences like Ms. Britt's were mirrored in the faces of the men and women who attended the services.

A chorus of tears filled the quiet moments during transitions in the service.

Diane Mullins teared up as she watched footage of veterans and the sacrifices they made.

And long before Kathy Moore, a Gold Star Mother, placed a ceremonial wreath, she remembered, too -- the day in 2007 when she found out she lost her son, Cpl. Ryan Russell in Iraq.

There were tears mixed with the memory.

Memorial Day is one of the hard days.

The Army medic with ambitions of working at the Walter Reed medical center was killed when his unit was hit by an improvised explosive device in Baqubah.

There was some comfort, she said, in seeing that others were there to honor Ryan, and others like him, who died serving their country.

"It's hard but it's good when you see people that remember what the day is about," Mrs. Moore said. "It's very emotional, and it always will be. It was emotional even before I lost him. My husband served, and my father served."

Mrs. Moore said she appreciated that not only was the day about memorials to heroes who died in service to their country, but also a tribute to those who are still serving.

"You couldn't have a barbecue without what they did for you," she said.

And 4th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Lt. Col. Lamar Pettus said ceremonies like the one Monday will always be important.

"It's important because it reminds us of the service and sacrifice people have made," he said. "It's emotional for me as well -- just like everybody who has seen the suffering they have been through for all of us. It serves as a poignant reminder of the price."

During his keynote address, Tim Finan spoke about a young staff sergeant getting up for church on a Sunday morning -- Dec. 7, 1941.

That young man, Finan said, was his father, an Army soldier in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during the Pearl Harbor attack.

"They stayed on the beach for three days and three very long nights, waiting for the attack they were sure was coming," Finan said.

And then he recounted the day his father ran up and down the sand at Normandy in 1944, ordering them to move off the beach.

"So many officers died in the assault he was promoted to a first lieutenant right there on the beach," Finan said. "They told him to get his men off the beach. Instead of running off the beach, he ran up and down the beach kicking, dragging and cursing men to get off the beach.

"My father was a hero to me, and I hope he is a little bit of a hero to you now, too."

Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition President Al Greene closed out the ceremony with a charge to the younger generations in attendance to remind their community about the importance of remembering not only those who served, but also the cost of freedom.

"I look around and see less people than before," he said. "We're not doing a very good job of educating our young people. I pray you will never see anything like we saw after Vietnam. We remembered the World War II and Korean stories about sitting down for a meal and getting a cup of coffee and a sandwich and it was on the house or maybe the man at the end of the bar paid for it. When we got back people were running through the airport sticking signs on our backs saying, 'Baby killer' and asking us 'How many babies have you killed today?'"