Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Christina Lopez
Salisbury Post
Dozens of people gathered at the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex Monday to pay tribute to loved ones, family and friends who have given their lives to protect the freedoms U.S. citizens enjoy.
“Let’s remember our friends and comrades in foreign countries,” Chaplain Marvin “Buddy” Kyles said, “Because of them, we are able to do what we are doing today.”
Army Maj. Tim Parker delivered the keynote address for the Memorial Day ceremony, sponsored by veterans’ organizations from all over Rowan County.
“The average age of the infantryman is 19 years,” Parker said, quoting an unnamed author. “He is a short-haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to by a beer, but old enough to die for his country.
“He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to ‘square away’ those around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful. He is paying the price for our freedom,” Parker said.
Don Webb, president of the Rowan County Veterans Council, said those gathered for the ceremony were honoring men and women making the ultimate sacrifice.
Pete Kennedy, Salisbury city council member, speaking on behalf of the city, said he wanted everyone to “recognize and value our gift of freedom” and “honor great Americans who gave their lives for this country.
“It’s a sense of honor and privilege to pay tribute to our fallen veterans, who are our fallen heroes.”
Bagpipes played, a memorial wreath was presented, and the Rowan County Veterans Honor Detail fired a volley.
The playing of “Taps” set a somber tone.
Raul “Arbe” Arbelaez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said in an interview after the ceremony that the nation should be grateful to those being remembered on Memorial Day.
“The eagle, globe and anchor was earned, not given,” he said.
“Pan around; it’s because of all of them,” Arbelaez said, in reference to the graves.
“Those people before me who have died, they gave us the right to protest and the right to free speech.”
“I know there are people against the war. It’s their right and I have to respect that, but the thing that people have to realize is that if it wasn’t for the men and women who put their lives on the line we wouldn’t have those freedoms that we do today, and today of all days is to commemorate our fallen comrades,” Arbelaez said.
Ann Arbelaez said she found the ceremony very emotional and was proud of what U.S. troops are doing.
“People need stop and think about what the flag truly means and think about what today stands for and why they have today off,” she said.
“They need to think about the troops overseas, what they’re risking so we are able to have family picnics and time with our family and loved ones.”