A couple dozen Ansonians braved a hot and steamy afternoon on Monday, May 30, to attend Anson County’s Memorial Day ceremony in front of the Anson County Courthouse. The ceremony was hosted by Anson County Veterans Services and honored veterans, as well as those who have given their lives in military service.
Elder John W. Gatewood, a veteran of World War II, started off the service with an invocation. The Anson High School Color Guard presented the nation’s colors while James Bennett, commander of VFW Post #10403, led the audience in the pledge of allegiance.
Lula Colson-Jackson, director of Anson County Department of Social Services, welcomed all to the ceremony. Veterans services is one of the many programs provided by DSS, and Jackson said, “I invite you to share in today’s ceremony as we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Captain Joel C. Pierce, company commander of C Co 30th Special Battalion of the North Carolina Army National Guard spoke next, pointing out that Memorial Day is all about honoring the sacrifice of American troops. “You’ll hear a lot today that freedom isn’t free,” he said. “And it’s not. It’s not paid for with dollars; it’s paid for with blood.”
Major Gary Shaw, director of Anson High School’s JROTC, introduced guest speaker for the ceremony, 1st Sgt. Michael Maye, a new instructor in the JROTC program, who’s served in the military for 20 years.
“Many think of Memorial Day as just another holiday,” Maye said. “Memorial Day is a day to honor those who made it possible for us to celebrate holidays such as these.”
He read off the numbers of troops killed in various conflicts, including 4,400 in Iraq, 53,000 in Vietnam, and 290,000 in World War II. He added that it’s important to remember that servicemen and women were also killed in smaller conflicts, like 19 in Granada and 43 in Somalia.
“Anyone that has given their life is an American hero,” Maye said. “Many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins have given their lives so that tyranny would not rule.”
He pointed out that only a small fraction of the American population will ever serve in the military but said that doesn’t matter. “It only matters how they serve,” he said.
Maye told the story of 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Ronnie L. Sanders, a paratrooper stationed at Fort Bragg. “Anything you asked him to do, he would do,” he said. Sanders had served one tour in Iraq already when he was sent back for another. The combat vehicle he was riding in hit an explosive device and Sanders was killed, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. “He paid the ultimate price,” Maye said.
Maye also told the story of taking a flight across Europe while he was still in the service. He and his fellow soldiers were told they were transporting three of their fallen comrades. As the coffins were loaded into the plane, he and the other soldiers saluted. “That entire four-hour flight was silent,” he said. “No one said a word.”
Maye said he thought of his own family and how he would see them in a few weeks. “How could I complain when these three comrades will never see their families again?” he asked.
He concluded by asking the audience to say a prayer for all of the armed services.
Staff Sgt. Adam R. Huneycutt, Sgt. Kevin J. Kelson and Sgt. Christopher C. Harrington of the National Guard then read the names of all of Anson County’s fallen soldiers.
The service concluded with the laying of a wreath on Anson County’s memorial to fallen soldiers by Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Burris of the North Carolina National Guard.