Aiken Memorial Day ceremony honors ‘Americans who gave their all’
It was a busy day in Veterans Memorial Park on Monday as a reverent crowd gathered to honor fallen soldiers for Memorial Day.
Red, white and blue wreaths of flowers were placed in front of the memorial wall in the park during the ceremony. Inscribed on the wall are the names of 155 fallen soldiers.
“This beautiful wall in front of us lists the men and women of Aiken County who have sacrificed their lives in the defense of our county and preservation of our freedoms,” said Navy Rear Adm. Dean Sackett, the keynote speaker. “Before we go any further, right here in the beginning, it is appropriate to remember these heroes are the focus of this ceremony. They are the reason we are here.”
Sackett thanked the crowd, decked out in patriotic colors, for attending the ceremony on a beautiful but “crispy” day. Last year, poor weather forced the ceremony to be cancelled.
The event was organized by Marine Corps League’s James L. Hammons Detachment No. 939. The detachment’s judge advocate, Maj. Joe Featherston, narrated the ceremony and called the holiday a “very solemn” day.
“There are now 4 million disabled veterans living in the United States,” Featherson said. “Unfortunately, most Americans seem to forget that countless other men and women lost their lives in non-hostile incidents, both in training and in operational losses. Many of the military here this morning know someone who was personally lost and can attest to that.”
Featherston gave special recognition to WWII veterans at the ceremony, who he referred to as a “special breed.”
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon spoke about how it was “more important than ever” to tell the stories of veterans from generations that are passing on, so their stories never fade from memory.
“It is imperative that the next generation know the price that was paid so that they might enjoy the many freedoms that this memorial day brings,” Osbon said. “Everything precious to this country was made precious by Americans who gave their all.”
Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, also spoke at the ceremony, and touched on the origins of Memorial Day and the importance of unity in divisive times.
“Today, in particular, it helps us to think about others, rather than our current political feelings,” Taylor said. “Let us remember that the precious people whose names etched on that wall of remembrance did not want to die in battle, but did so for something greater – their country.”
“Each one our Aiken County neighbor of the past,” he continued. “Each one with family and friends who hugged them and waved good bye when they went to war to defend America. For those 155 souls, they never returned home to resume their lives.”
Some attending the ceremony were there to honor those fallen family members or friends who never returned. Don Sullivan, of Graniteville, said there was “no better way” to thank veteran’s for their sacrifice.
Others, like Claude O’Donovan, have personal experience in the armed forces. O’Donovan served in the military for over seven years.
“I’m here every year,” O’Donovan said.