By VICKI BROWN
Memorial Day was observed at the Walterboro Waterfall Plaza on Monday, May 31 as locals gathered to honor fallen soldiers.
At 9:00 a.m., Colleton County veterans, Gold Star families and family members, and patriotic residents gathered to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Veteran Bob Tiegs, Adjutant American Legion Post 93, was the Master of Ceremony and welcomed the crowd.
He was assisted by Colleton County Veterans Council Board members Johnny Holmes, chairman, and Janet Smith, Veterans Affairs officer. Tiegs pointed out an empty chair that held a POW MIA flag.
“We must continue our demands that remains of our soldiers be sent back to us from overseas, along with records and accounts. We can never forget them,” said Tiegs.
The ceremony continued as Pastor Eric Campbell gave the invocation, and the NJROTC of Colleton County High School presented the colors.
Boy Scouts of Troop 200 led the Pledge of Allegiance and Rivka Smalls-Brown sang the National Anthem.
City of Walterboro Mayor Bill Young spoke, thanking the city fire department and Fire Chief Paul Seigler for displaying American flags along Washington Street.
He also went on to say that Memorial Day is an important day for all Americans. “It is important that we all here today remember and tell the stories of the courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who gave so much for our country,” said Young, who also quoted former President George Herbert Walker Bush. “’We must tell these stories, because those who lost loved ones need to know that a grateful nation will always remember. We must tell their stories so that our children and grandchildren will understand what our lives might have been like had it not been for their sacrifice.
“’Let us remember the cause for which these Americans fought, and the freedom and peace bought with their life’s blood, and let us pass along to a new generation the awesome accounts of honor and courage.’”
County Council Chairman Steven Murdaugh then gave the audience an account of the history of dog tags. He held up his own from when he served in the military and explained the significance of the dog tags and the difference in sizes.
“The main purpose of the military dog tags is to identify soldiers that are wounded or killed while they are in action. A military dog tag contains the details of the soldier like first name, last name and the soldier’s military ID number so that it can act as an identity token for the soldiers. There are two tags so that one stays with the fallen soldier and one is sent back for records,” said Murdaugh. “A soldier wears these and knows there is a chance he or she won’t come home. The dog tags are reminders of that. We must remember these fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they willingly made for us.”
Lt. Colonel Lonnie Ford, retired from the U.S. Air Force, was guest speaker. He comes from a legacy of military veterans: his grandfather and father both served, as did his son and nephews. Ford’s own military career consisted of serving in aircraft operations, flight line management, program and contract management in South Carolina, Oklahoma, California, Mississippi, Alabama, Colorado, Virginia and Germany.
He received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with 2 oakleaf clusters, AF Meritorious Service Medal with oakleaf clusters, and the National Defense Medal with cluster.
Lt. Colonel Ford told the crowd that he had no idea just how much the military was ingrained in his family until he was asked to speak at this ceremony. “This talk today was really for me. It made me question my family and that led to discoveries that I didn’t know. I have had a family member fight in every single war since WWI,” said Ford.
“When you are in battle, you have to know that the person next to you is willing to sacrifice his life for you. As you see veterans, know that they were also willing to sacrifice their lives for you. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘Thank You’, and we need to do that. Say ‘Thank You’ to them. Life is full of decisions. We make them every day. But for these fallen soldiers, they made a decision. They saw a need and made a decision. That decision cost them their lives, and we are grateful for their sacrifice. So we can all say ‘Thank You’.”
The ceremony ended with the Colleton Veterans Council laying a wreath in remembrance of the fallen. The Colleton County Honor Guard fired a three round volley salute and Taps was played. The NJROTC retrieved the colors, and Pastor Campbell gave the benediction. A national moment of remembrance took place at 3:00 p.m., as it does each year on Memorial Day.