Remembering the fallen
Quoting a former commander-in-chief, Maj. Gen. Cornell Wilson on Monday afternoon said the measure of a nation is by how it honors the fallen.
“President Kennedy once said that a nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but the men it honors,” Wilson said. “Today, we remember and honor the American soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guard men and women, who died while in military service.”
Wilson's words echoed through a soft, steady, pre-summertime breeze at Cushwa Stadium near the end of Thomasville's largest, longest and most recognizable day of the year. The 27th annual N.C. Memorial Day & Celebration started off honoring a wall of Vietnam War heroes and concluded with the recognition of eight families who live with the day's significance to American history.
“Memorial Day is not to be a day of solemn mourning but a day of reverent celebration,” said Wilson, who is Gov. Pat McCrory's senior adviser for military affairs.
McCrory served as the parade's grand marshal, and rode front and center up Salem Street and down Memorial Park Drive toward Thomasville's own plot of remembrance – Memorial Park. Once the first wave of flag-bearing veterans crossed in front of the granite marker, a row of red, white and blue bloomed on the walkway above. Veterans left their flags to blow in the wind high above an annual parade following closely behind.
Above Roger Bryant, who found himself a shady spot under a tree at the bottom of the hill. Bryant, who retired as city manager in 2005, still feels pride in the tradition Thomasville has created.
“It's bigger than it's ever been and it gives me a good feeling inside to know that all these folks are out to honor our fallen veterans and memorializing our service men and women,” Bryant said. “This is a great thing Thomasville does. Thomasville doesn't forget these things. It separates us and is a great day's activity for Memorial Day.”
Eddie and Cindy Craven stood by a stone wall as veterans from every military branch and vintage service vehicles marched slowly by. Cindy's father served in the 82nd Airborne, the same unit that would end the celebration an hour later with a parachute jump.
“It's great and it's the biggest one around,” said Cindy Craven. “This is a beautiful day to honor all the men and women who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Mayor Joe Bennett presented McCrory with the key to the city, a recently named All-America city with an annual parade that has no rival.
“Thomasville, I'd like to thank you and all the leaders for continuing this great tradition of remembering all the veterans past and present and the future,” McCrory said. “May God bless all of you and the great state of North Carolina.”
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.