LAURINBURG – A few hundred people turned out on a brisk morning to honor Scotland County’s current and former military at Legion Park on Firday.
The ceremony was coordinated by the Scotland County Veterans Council and American Legion Post 50.
As the US and North Carolina flags along with flags representing the branches of the service fluttered in the cool November breeze, several speakers touched on the importance of honoring the service and sacrifice of the nation’s veterans.
The ceremony opened with the presentation of colors by Scotland High School’s JROCT color guard and the singing of the national anthem by Benita Mullis.
Mayor Matthew Block welcomed the crowd and thanked veterans for their service. He told those assembled that of all the events he is invited to speak at, the Veterans Day ceremony was his favorite.
“I look forward to it and enjoy it the most because it honors our veterans and because of the wonderful job the Scotland County Veteran’s Council does putting this on,” Block said.
Ben McNeill, vice president of American Legion Post 50, acknowledged local dignitaries representing the city of Laurinburg, Scotland County, the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement as well as Senator Tom McInnis and North Carolina Representative Garland Pierce.
Sgt. William Swift took a moment to recognize that Nov. 10 marked the birthday of the US Marine Corps established in 1775 before he introduced keynote speaker Rev. Harold Hunt Ret. Army and current pastor of St. John United Methodist Church in Gibson.
Hunt, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, wore his native regalia over his Army uniform. His tribal identity is tied into his identity as a serviceman.
Hunt served during the Vietnam Conflict for 1968 to 1977, achieving the rank of Staff Sgt. in the 199 Light Infantry Brigade. He is a member of the state and national Tribal Veterans Service, National American Indians Veterans and the Lumbee Warriors Association.
“This is not a costume,” Hunt said referring to his regalia blended with his uniform. “This is who I am and who I am proud to be in life.”
Hunt reminded the crowd of the importance of Veteran’s Day, and that for those who wore the uniform it was at part of who they are.
This day reminds us that it is important that the men and women who wore that uniform know how grateful we are,” Hunt said. “It is important to recognize our military past and present because their sacrifice allows us to stay free.”
He said that there are some 3,000 veterans in Scotland County praised the county’s “rich history” of service.
Hunt told the crowd that history had disproved the idea that peace preserves itself. He said peace could only be preserved by those who stepped up to sacrifice themselves to keep the peace.
He reminded the crowd that that sacrifice often involved physical and mental wounds that needed to be taken care of long after wars were done.
“The wounds of war seen and unseen last a lifetime, and so should our memories. Veterans deserve the best care the military can provide. They merit a continuum of care that lasts a lifetime,” Hunt said.
He took a moment to recognize Eugenia Odom a 92-year-old World War II veteran who served as an Army Air Corps nurse.
Members of each branch of service were asked to stand to be honored.
Those in attendance appreciated the service and the venue.
Korean War Veteran Bill Riggins said it was “special and significant” to have the ceremony in Legion Park because the park was built, not for veterans, but by veterans. Veterans of World War II began the project, and it was completed by veterans of Korea.
The day is also significant to Riggins because his family has a history of military service.
“This is a special day. My father fought in World War II, and that got me to believe in the American dream,” Riggins said. “When the draft came in the 1950s, when I graduated from school, the entire senior class was drafted; but I was not old enough. I had to wait a year before I could join. When I could, I enlisted.”
Another population greatly impacted by those who have served is law enforcement. Often those who retire from the military turn to careers in law enforcement.
Sheriff Ralph Kersey believes his stint in the Marines positively impacted his career as an officer of the law.
“I spent four years in the Marine Corps, and you do find a lot of law enforcement officers that have prior military experience,” Kersey said. “If it wasn’t for the military, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today because of the discipline and integrity I learned there. That’s what they instill in you.”
Other events designed to honor veterans will take place between now and Monday.
—Today, Maxton American Legion Post 117 will hold its Annual Veterans Day Ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Maxton Historical Grounds at North Florence and West Graham Streets in Maxton. Lieutenant Commander Dean Valentine a SEAL Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves is the guest speaker. Purnell Swett JROTC color guard will present the colors.
— Today, Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church at 601 North Main Street in Laurinburg will host a veterans’ breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m.
— Sunday, Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church will hold a Veteran’s Day program during morning service at 320 Bizzell Street. Major Ara Baldwin will be the guest speaker.
— Monday, the Golden Corral restaurant kin laurinburg will feed military vets for free.
The Disabled American Veteran’s Chapter 17 of Raeford has been collecting money at the restaurant to assist veterans in the region. Chapter 17 includes Scotland County.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169