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Memorial Day Tribute at War Memorial remembers fallen soldiers

Children seem to know in their own way what Memorial Day means to them, and those older and more experienced also are aware of the sacrifices our military has made, personally and otherwise, in their own way.

Those different but similar viewpoints were on the minds of guest speaker Colonel Donald G. Wilson (ret.) and some of those attending the Memorial Day Tribute Monday at the Halifax County War Memorial.

South Boston Elementary School student Michaella Freshour remembered “Granddad Lynn,” who served aboard an aircraft carrier, submarine and submarine tender during the Vietnam Conflict.

She learned in school “to remember people who died in wars,” and “learned that sometimes we have ceremonies for people who are killed in wars and who are still living.”

“They saved the country,” remarked 12-year-old Alice Merricks, who learned in school “when you see the flag, put your hand over your heart.”

Her grandfather, Conway Harris, who served his nation for 37 years as a U.S. Army National Guardsman, attended Monday’s tribute.

Wilson, a retired senior military chaplain in the U.S. Army, served for 26 years, part of that time as senior military chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

A veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, Wilson volunteered for front line service and many times found himself in harm’s way.

Luckily, for him, he survived, but many of his comrades did not.

One such assignment was a hill “way out in Laos,” according to Wilson.

“Sometimes I’d spend the night out there, sometimes a helicopter would come and pick you up,” said Wilson.

“There were only 37 guys on this little hill, artillery and infantry,” added Wilson, who hitched a ride on a helicopter with then-General Colin Powell. 

“It’s an earth-moving thing, that night on that hill, that hill got overrun, and every last person there died.  When you experience something like that, it does something on the inside of you.”

Another soldier in Vietnam paid almost the equivalent of that sacrifice, marrying the “lady of his captor and was now taking care of her children.

“Our guys tried to get him to come home, and he had forgotten most of his English, his place was there,” continued Wilson. “You talk about a price to pay, that’s a deep one.”

Wilson asked for a show of hands to indicate who among those present for the tribute had lost loved ones through war. 

“If there’s anything any of us can do for you, please let us know and let me know. We want to be there for you,” said Wilson.

Brenda E. Ashby, whose brother, Cecil Wayne Epps, was killed in the Vietnam Conflict in 1968, quietly raised her hand in response to Wilson’s request.

She recalled her brother’s sacrifice while pointing to his name, which is etched in stone on the monument.

“It (Memorial Day) means to me the sacrifice that everyone has done for us to live in a peaceful world,” said Ashby. “He was certainly part of that.”

Ashby, from a family including three girls and six boys, makes it a point to attend the tribute each year in her brother’s memory

“It’s a special time,” she added.  “We always try to be here every year.”

Monday’s tribute also included patriotic music performed by Ricky Gordon, Daniel Lloyd and Clyde Lloyd, and introductory remarks from Bill Crews, commander, Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 581.

Allen Anderson sang the National Anthem, Grace Elliott recited a patriotic poem, and American Legion Post 8 Honor Guard gave a rifle salute and Taps.

 

Dr. Gerald Burnett introduced the guest speaker.