LAURINBURG — Led by the Scotland County Veterans Council, some 150 people gathered Monday to commemorate the contributions made by military veterans to the promotion of freedom both at home and abroad.
State Rep. Garland Pierce provided the keynote speech, in which he placed emphasis on the sacrifices made by veterans’ families as well as by veterans themselves.
“Our soldiers and our sailors are often the ones forced to risk their lives while our safety is threatened by others,” he said. “Their families must do without their loved ones for months at a time and too often they must stand over a cold grave.”
Remembering his own service in the U.S. Army, Pierce recalled the common bonds shared by soldiers, which transcend the issues that may otherwise divide them.
“It was something about that camaraderie that still, even today, moves me,” said Pierce. “It mattered not about where you came from, your home, your party, none of that mattered. When you were in the foxhole with another colleague, none of that mattered.”
During the ceremony, the council recognized local World War II veteran C. Raymond Calhoun, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, as well as the N.C. National Guard 151st Engineer Company, which returned in May from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
Among the attendees were state Sen. Gene McLaurin, state Rep. Ken Goodman, and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who briefly presented his legislative priorities for veterans’ housing and employment as well as VA claims.
“George Washington said that our ability to recruit men into the military in the future depends on how we treat our veterans today,” Hudson said. “That is never more true than today, and we’ve got to honor our commitments.”
Following the blowing of taps by Ronnie Fields and a three-volley salute by the American Legion Post 181 10th District Ritual Team, two members of the All Veteran Parachute Team gave a skydiving demonstration in the air above Legion Park.
Later in the day, McLaurin and former state Sen. William Purcell gave Veterans Day remarks at Willow Place in honor of veterans among the residents and staff.
“Generations of American veterans have fought to protect and preserve the liberties which we now cherish and enjoy,” said Purcell. “We all know that despite all of our problems, the drug problems, the crime, the poverty, all of these problems, America ranks the best place in the world to live, thanks in large part to our veterans who gave their lives to protect our freedom.”
McLaurin credited American veterans with the ability to carry on through adversity and maintain direction during ambiguous times.
“America is very young, and that freedom that we appreciate and we enjoy every day is not something that just happened,” he said. “It happened because of our veterans, who were willing to defend our country and defend our freedom on foreign land… . Our veterans are the ones who have shown us the way. They are the ones who said this is what really matters is being free and being able to worship where you want to worship, to have freedom of speech, to have the ability to come together and be a part of the greatest country in the world.”