Despite the hot sun baking the Anson County Courthouse grounds, a large crowd turned out Monday afternoon for the county’s annual Memorial Day service.
Rev. W.C. Dunlap was the emcee for the ceremony, and Vietnam Veteran Ed Parker led the audience through the Pledge of Allegiance. County Manager Lawrence Gatewood gave the welcome address, and Brenda Pratt performed a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Russell Sikes, a member of the National Guard and the Anson County Board of Education, introduced the speaker for the ceremony, Col. Paul Little, who is still actively serving in the U.S. Army. Col. Little has served on the surgeon general’s staff, Sikes said, and is also an active member of First Baptist Church in Wadesboro.
Little said he was honored to be not only in North Carolina for Memorial Day, but in Anson County, his home.
“Today, we honor the thousands who have died on the battlefield,” he said.
While Col. Little said he could list statistics on the number of soldiers who have been killed in action, it’s also important to remember that for every fatality, there are eight who are seriously injured in battle. Countless soldiers have lost arms or legs, he said. “It’s incredible what our soldiers go through.”
Col. Little told the story of Col. Greg Gadson, who lost both legs above the knee after a battlefield injury. Gadson was the first to use what Little called the “power knee,” which gives amputees better flexibility. Last year, a Hollywood producer heard of Gadson’s story, and he was cast in the movie “Battleship.” He’s now also the director of U.S. Army Fort Belvoir Garrison.
“Whenever I start feeling depressed or feeling sorry for myself, I just have to think of folks like Greg Gadson or go to Walter Reed Medical Center and see a soldier walking on prosthetics for the first time or pushing a buddy in a wheelchair,” Little said.
After Col. Little’s speech, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan M. Burris with the N.C. National Guard laid a wreath in front of the Anson County veterans memorial, while Richmond County AmVets Post 316 gave the 21-gun salute.