Community members united to honor the country’s fallen heroes Saturday morning as part of the Town of Harrells’ annual Memorial Day celebration.
The Rev. Joe Lee Jr. of Wells Chapel Baptist Church prayed blessings upon the gathered group after the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, kicking off a time of remembrance and honor.
“We pray we will never forget the bravery of our forefathers and service men and women,” said Lee.
The Star Spangled Banner was performed by Beth Stoval, who is the 2014 Miss Greater Sampson County. Katie Greer, Mayor Pro-Tem for Harrells, welcomed everyone to the ceremony.
“We give thanks for those still fighting for our freedom in the greatest country in the world,” said Greer to the gathered group of around 75 people.
“We are here to honor those here with us today, as well,” Greer added. She read off the names of those that were there and their branches of service, asking them to stand.
“Thank you for your devotion to America,” stressed Greer.
Bob Greer of American Legion Post No. 1981 introduced the guest speaker, Patricia Harris, state Commander of the American Legion.
Harris served 22 years with the Army during Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
“Harris has been a brave and determined warrior,” said Greer.
“My biggest and greatest title is of being a Legionnaire,” said Harris. “It took 95 years to elect a woman state commander.”
“But who are we and what are we if we don’t have competition,” asked Harris of her election. “I have been first in a lot of things.”
“Someone has to plow the field first, and knock down some weeds,” she said. “That way someone can come behind and make that dirt row.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to be here with you,” she said, mentioning that she came down from Raleigh. She also added that she now knows where she can get as many pork rinds and other pork products as she would ever want, considering that the Clear Run store was close by.
After reading the poem called “Soldier” by George Skypeck, she moved on to remind everyone to focus on what Memorial Day really means.
“It is a day to remember that freedom isn’t free … and our fallen heroes paid a high price,” Harris reminded. She encouraged everyone to preserve the incidences of the fallen and commemorate their memory, which the Harrells Memorial Day celebration did through honoring those gone in their Deceased Veterans Memorial, which this year had seven names added.
Harris said that everyone needs to remember those who loved America enough to die for it, and encouraged everyone to be there for veterans who have been left behind.
“No one can replace those fallen heroes, especially in the eyes of their family,” she said, noting that veterans’ avocation is one of the best things that can be done to help.
“So many die trying to get treatment,” she explained. “It is sad for their families to watch. They are the first to fight but the last to be cared for.”
“This is a day we must remember why we are here and let us pay it forward and care for the next in uniform,” Harris stated.
The town clerk of Harrells, Cindy Ezzell, read President Barack Obama’s proclamation and prayer for peace. President Obama asked for a day of prayer for permanent peace.
Susan Corliss-Bland reminded everyone of what the Pledge of Allegiance meant by playing Red Skelton’s video clip on the Pledge of Allegiance.
After a benediction, the bell was rung five times for all the branches of the service, and Taps were played by an honor guard trumpeter. The Sampson County Firemen’s Association Honor Guard presented and retrieved the colors during the ceremony. A complimentary picnic lunch was served after the ceremony.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd