Public asked to attend Memorial Day Ceremony that will honor veterans

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By HEATHER WALTERS & VICKI BROWN

A special Memorial Day ceremony will be observed at the Walterboro Waterfall Plaza on Monday May 31, at 9:00 a.m.

The public is invited to attend.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Veterans Council had a small gathering at the waterfall last year. We are happy to announce that this year’s ceremony is open to the public,” said Janet Smith, with the Colleton County Veterans Council, the organization that is hosting the Memorial Day ceremony.

This year, the guest speaker for the Memorial Day ceremony will be Lt. Colonel Lonnie Ford, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force. Ford is currently a Charleston resident who will be speaking on the importance of honoring veterans.

“Memorial Day is that time of year that we pause, remember and honor all of our service men and women who gave their lives in the defense of our freedom,” said Smith.

According to the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, a total of 145 military men and women sacrificed their lives during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

“These men and women were from South Carolina or they had immediate family members who reside here,” said Smith. “Each of us owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude for their dedication, courage and commitment. 

“These courageous, brave men and women answered the call to help preserve peace and promote freedom.  Not only did they answer the call, they died for it.  Now it’s our turn to answer the Call to Honor and Remember their sacrifice.”

According to Johnny Holmes, chairman of the Colleton County Veterans Council, there are about 4,000 veterans in Colleton County right now.

This Memorial Day ceremony is important, he said, to honor them and their families.

“It’s always important to honor veterans. Veterans take the time to go and fight for our freedoms, for our country,” said Holmes. “There is nothing free. Somebody pays the price for anything and everything that goes on.

“Veterans paid the price for everybody else to be able to socialize and mingle, one with another,” he said.

Specifically, Holmes said he wants this ceremony to honor Vietnam Veterans, who are still suffering from the way they returned home and from disabilities they received while serving the nation. “Some of the disability is visible and some of it is hidden,” said Holmes. “It’s heartbreaking. And the least we can do is honor them.”

Many local residents are eager to honor loved ones on Memorial Day who were killed in battle.

“I was 5-years old and watched my daddy leave to go to war in WWII. I knew he was never coming back…and he didn’t. He was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. I still miss him, but I know he died to save the world from Hitler,” said June Craig, who is 82 years old. “The loss isn’t as bad when I know other people appreciate my family’s sacrifice,” she said.

Pat Catterton, of Walterboro, is the father of a veteran who was wounded while fighting and serving in Afghanistan.

Catterton said Memorial Day is also a special time for him and his family.

“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all and should respect our military,” said he said.

About the speaker

Lt. Col Lonnie D. Ford is the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) organization at R.B. Stall High School in North Charleston.

He became involved with the Air Force Junior ROTC after retiring from the U.S. Military three years ago.

Lt. Col Ford is a native of Georgia with family from Colleton County. “He comes from a legacy of military veterans,” said Janet Smith, with the Colleton County Veterans Affairs Office. “His grandfather and father served honorably. His son and nephews are all wearers of a military uniform. He is the second of five siblings and oldest son of Technical Sergeant (retired) Reverend Raymond and Christine Ford.”

Lt. Col Ford graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and was commissioned into the United States Air Force. He received his Masters from Troy State University in Public Administration and from the University of Virginia in Executive Contract Policy.

His military career consisted of serving in aircraft operations, flight line management, program and contract management.

During his career, he provided oversight to aircraft programs of C-130, C-17, B-2, KC-135 and Titan IV Space Vehicle programs. His assignment locations include South Carolina, Oklahoma, California, Mississippi, Alabama, Colorado, Virginia and Germany. He received numerous military and civilian awards and recognitions to include Defense Meritorious Service Medal with 2 oakleaf clusters, AF Meritorious Service Medal with oakleaf clusters, and National Defense Medal with cluster.

He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., said Smith.

The History of Memorial Day

According to Lowcountry historians, the first Memorial Day was held in the Charleston area by a group of former slaves, who honored Union soldiers and black soldiers who had fought together and died in the Civil War.

This first ceremony is said to have been held in 1865.

Then, in 1868, Union Veteran General John A. Logan made a declaration and encouraged the military to participate in laying flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers.

By 1890, every former state of the Union had adopted this ceremony as an official holiday. However, the holiday would not become a national holiday until 1971.

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