The Scotland County Veterans’ Council’s Memorial Day ceremony honored American servicemen killed in battle as well as those war veterans still living.
Not a cloud marred the sky during Monday’s event, which was held at Hillside Memorial Park. Some 100 people, including members of the veterans’ council and other veterans’ organizations, attended. The Laurinburg Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors at the start of the ceremony, and Scotland High School student Nyjel Graham followed with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on saxophone.
Scotland County Veterans’ Council President Jimmy Bennett served as master of ceremonies, with treasurer Bill Owens introducing keynote speaker, state Sen. Gene McLaurin.
In his remarks, McLaurin called for rememberance of military members killed in war and for contemplation of the reason for their absolute sacrifice.
“This is a holiday, but it is so much more than that: it is a time for us to remember and reflect on what it means to be an American, to acknowledge our past and to be pointed toward our future,” he said. “It’s a day to remember that the freedom that we take for granted is ours because of those brave men and women who fought for us and gave their all.”
McLaurin also paid tribute to those present who are military veterans and the beliefs shared by those who risk their lives in service to their country.
“They believed in freedom, they believed in democracy, they believed that war was necessary in defending our country and our way of life in America and those precious rights that are guaranteed by our United States Constitution,” said McLaurin. “They also believed in us, and we have a responsibility to uphold the principles they died for.”
He reflected upon a visit to Arlington National Cemetery with his 22-year-old son, speaking of the reponsibility of instilling patriotism and a respect for service in the next generation. McLaurin said that that ethos is demonstrated in the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier who have maintained vigilant watch over the tomb even, by choice, in the face of a weather conditions that send the U.S. legislature into recess.
He called the unknown soldier “one of the most powerful symbols of our nation.”
“The Unknown Soldier is a symbol that stands for the ideals of courage, valor, and sacrifice,” McLaurin said. “He remains in perpetuity a soldier, who not only gave his life for his country, but he lost his identity for his country.”
During the ceremony, Veterans’ Council Members Ulyses Thomas, Jerry Weinreis, and Aletha Sewell Johnson along with Commissioner Bob Davis, Joe Jones of American Legion Post 449, Al Linklighter of the Scotland County Military Retirees, Laurinburg Pilot Club President Pam Ashley, and Gwen Harris of the VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary, each laid a wreath in memory of all fallen soldiers and sailors. N.C. Division of Veterans’ Affairs acting director Wayne Peedin also made an appearance to read a Memorial Day proclamation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.
The ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute by the American Legion 10th District Ritual Team and the playing of taps by Ronnie Fields.