Memorials, cemeteries and other tributes help ensure that people continue to honor military veterans.
That was the message of retired Army Col. Lewis T. Turner, who spoke at the 72nd annual Memorial Day Service on May 27 at Roselawn Chapel Funeral Home and Burial Park.
Turner is a graduate of Bassett High School, Bluefield College, Concord University and Florida International University in addition to his military education. He holds numerous military medals and has been active in community service. He has moved back to Henry County and attends Stanleytown United Methodist Church.
He is a Vietnam veteran and broke his family’s chain of two combat deaths, he said.
Such a chain probably is not unusual in Martinsville and Henry County, Turner said, but it is painful nonetheless.
When someone is killed in combat — regardless of whether it is called a war or a conflict — it is personal, Turner said. It hits a family hard and takes a long time to heal, he added.
“The death of American men and women continues to be part of our history,” Turner said, and those people’s sacrifices must be remembered.
There are many ways to ensure that, he said. For instance, he recommended the audience visit the various war memorials in Washington, D.C., especially the Vietnam memorial and especially before daybreak. The D-Day Memorial in Bedford also is a must-see, and a special program will be held there June 6 to mark the 75th anniversary of that invasion.
“Local efforts to honor veterans are impressive,” Turner said, mentioning the memorials at the Bassett Historical Center and markers around the area.
There are 136 National Cemeteries, including 15 in Virginia, although only those at Culpepper and Quantico still are open for burials of people not related to those already interred there, he said.
The United States has more than 300,000 active duty military personnel stationed in more than 150 countries, and thousands of veterans are buried in cemeteries worldwide, according to Turner. Those cemeteries are “well-maintained hallowed grounds,” and their impact is heightened by the contrast of their beauty with the horrors of war.
He urged people traveling abroad to visit places such as Omaha Beach in Normandy to be reminded that “the fight for freedom doesn’t stop at the border.”
He also noted that in the Netherlands, families have adopted the graves of U.S. servicemen and they place the flags of both countries on the graves.
“Military honors to veterans, whether they were in combat or not, is well-deserved,” Turner added.
Turner also gave highlights of the history of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day after the end of the Civil War. It became a federal holiday in 1971, he said.
Retired Army Lt. Col. W.C. Fowlkes presided over the Roselawn service. The service was dedicated to the late James Rogers and Billy Barbour, and plaques were presented to members of their families and friends. Mark Thomas, former chairman of the Veterans Service Organization (VSO), also received a plaque for his service.
Recognized during the program were John McCain, a World War II veteran; Bill Gravely, a Korean War veteran; and Marie-Bernice Downey, who served as a nurse during the Korean War years and wore her service cap and blouse to the program.
Downey said after the program that she was stationed at what is now called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington, D.C. area as the Korean conflict ended and she treated many of the wounded who were brought there.
Sonny Richardson introduced VSO commanders and auxiliary presidents; Commander Thomas Spencer introduced the Veterans Honor Guard members; and S.T. Fulcher introduced the speaker. Joey Ellison and a JROTC cadet laid a wreath, and the Honor Guard performed a three-volley salute and Taps.
Magna Vista High School JROTC students did the Presentation of the Colors and Pledge of Allegiance. Chase Snead of the 29th Infantry ARNG Band performed the National Anthem.
C.P.D. Mike Stewart placed and later retrieved the POW/MIA flag on a table set as a tribute to a missing serviceman or woman, and the AMVETS/29th Infantry Band performed the POW/MIA Tribute. Shannon Campbell gave a reading that explained the significance of the table setting.
David Gillian gave the invocation; the Rev. Susan Spangenberg gave the memorial prayer; and the Rev. Mark Hinchdliff gave the benediction.