- Last Updated on 07:53 AM 05/28/14
- BY Danielle Vaughn
“It’s an honor and privilege to be here to speak to you on Memorial Day. This is a magnificent day and what better way to spend it than recognizing the valor and sacrifice of men and women who have served and laid down their lives,” said Hargrave Military Academy President and retired Brig. Gen. Doyle “Don” Broome.
Broome was the guest speaker for Monday’s Memorial Day service held at the Halifax County War Memorial.
He recognized veterans in attendance by reminding the crowd of just what it means to be a United States of America veteran.
“It does not matter if you served the country in war or at peace. If you chose to lay down your life, you’re a veteran,” Broome said.
He then asked all veterans to stand and be recognized by the audience.
“Today we’re here to remember the over 750 citizens of Halifax County who have made the supreme sacrifice for a nation,” Broome said before listing reasons why they may have chosen to fight for their country.
“Love of country, patriotic fever, desire to prove themselves, some of them signed up for the benefits, some of them may have been drafted. Any one of these brought them into the field of battle, but on the field of battle they fought for each other, for their buddies, for their friends, not to let their brothers and sisters down and for the love of each other,” Broome said.
He mentioned one name of a man on the memorial who paid the ultimate price, Air Force Major Bill R. Watkins III, who lost his life when his F15E went down during combat in Iraq in April 2003.
“I believe it is important for us to recognize the devotion of this current generation. Our military, your military has been at war now for over a decade. This is longer than any war in our nation’s history. It’s important to understand who this is,” Broome said.
He noted that only about a half of one percent of the nation serves in the military today compared to 12 percent in World War II.
“Major Bill Watkins was part of that one half of one percent,” Broome said.
The brigadier general quoted a recent survey that indicated 60 percent of Americans said they have been unaffected by the war.
“It means they have not deployed. They don’t know anyone who’s been deployed. You here, you’ve been affected by this war. You know troops who’ve been deployed. You may even know someone who has rendered the gift that Bill Watkins rendered.”
Knowing that so few serve, Broome said it’s little wonder why 84 percent of Americans have little to no understanding of post 9/11 vets or what they have seen, heard, experienced, done and sacrificed.
After the 9/11 attacks, the Army Chief of Staff issued a directive that for every soldier killed in action, an Army general would attend the funeral, Broome continued.
“From a personal standpoint, during my general officer years, between 2003 and 2007, it was my solemn honor and duty to lay to rest 21 young Americans who had given what President Abraham Lincoln aptly described as ‘the last full measure of devotion’,” Broome said.
He then shared with the audience two stories about veterans from the present generation.
He told a story of CW3 Aaron Weaver, former Army ranger and cancer survivor, who served in Broome’s unit.
According to Broome, when their unit received short notice of deployment, he already had orders to attend a training course. He could have avoided deployment but instead chose to deploy and was killed while riding in a medical evacuation helicopter enroute to Baghdad for a routine cancer check-up when it was shot down.
He also told the story of CPT Kimberley Hampton who was killed when her helicopter was shot down in January 2004 making her the first female military aviator in U. S. history to be killed by hostile fire.
Broome said a month after combat, one of her subordinates went traveling on 1-95 to visit her resting place when a reckless driver caused an 18-wheeler to veer out of control, cross the median and strike his car head-on, killing him instantly.
“These two — and Major Bill Watkins, are representatives of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have laid at the altar of freedom,” Broome said.
He noted 6,808 troops have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq to date.
Broom closed by saying, “I ask that we continue to remember our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Remember in prayer those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families who are deployed today in harm’s way. Keep them close to your heart, as we do with all things that are precious. They come from big cities and small towns, like Halifax and South Boston, across the nation. They have soldiered uncomplaining for over a decade missing birthdays, anniversaries, the births of children and holidays.”
Also during the Memorial Day tribute, Douglas Powell gave a memorial update recognizing four names that had been added to the Halifax County War Memorial. These names were uncovered by relatives of the fallen heroes.
Frank Overby from Montpelier, a direct descendant of Pvt. John B. Overby Jr., uncovered the names of Pvt. Overby and Pvt. James Murray.
James Guthrie of Lumberton, North Carolina uncovered the name of Pvt. John B. Guthrie Jr. James is a descendant of one of Guthrie’s brothers.
Anita Junell Lynn of Marble Farms, Texas, uncovered the name of Pvt. Sylvester Juniel. She is the descendant of one of Juniel’s brothers.
Also during the ceremony, the Rev. William Wilkins, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Vernon Hill, offered the invocation and benediction, while Boy Scouts of America Troop 497 presented and retired the colors.
Allen Anderson sung the national anthem, and Cmdr. Bill Crews of Camp 581 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans welcomed those attending.
Dr. Gerald Burnett introduced Broome as the guest speaker, and the American Legion Post 8 Honor Guard gave the rifle salute and played Taps.
Various organizations participated in a presentation of memorial floral tributes including the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 840, American Legion Post 8, NSDAR Berryman Green Chapter, Halifax 1321 UDC, The Historic Staunton River Bridge Foundation, VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Dan River Sons of the American Revolution, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 8, VFW Post 8243, Camp 581 Sons of the Confederate Veterans and descendants of Point Lookout.