Ceremony honors Rowan veterans
SALISBURY ó The soft distant pealing of the cemetery bells, precisely at noon, cut through the cold blustery air and a hushed silence descended on the assembled crowd. The group was gathered at the Salisbury National Cemetery to participate in the Wreaths Across America program on Saturday. NCWG Deputy Director of Public Affairs Maj. James Williams was the WAA location coordinator and Capt Paul Twiddy, NCWG director of aerospace education, served as his assistant for the ceremony.
The group of forty-five consisted of fifteen cadets and eight senior members of the North Carolina Wing Civil Air Patrol, distinguished guests and several veterans and their families, who were there to pay their respects to those who had served in the U.S. military and those who, in the words of President Lincoln, had given their last full measure of devotion to their country.
After the group recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Maj. Williams called for a moment of silence to remember the fallen, the prisoners of war, those missing in action and all those who have served and are serving in the armed services of the United States.
The color guard was then called on to post the colors. The cadets, in solemn silence, marched the flags of the U.S. and North Carolina, followed by the flags of each of the services and one each for the Merchant Marines and the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action. The colors were posted at the All Wars Monument near the flagpole, which displays the plaques of each of the five services: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Lt Col Richard Harkness, NCWG group two director of operations, made the opening remarks. Harkness said such ceremonies are a reminder that we are one nation with one flag.
“We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people, many races, from all walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price,” he said.
The formal wreath-laying ceremony followed, with seven cadets and two retired servicemen participating.
Cadet Shaneyfelt laid the wreath for the Army, Cadet Shuler laid the wreath for the Navy and Cadet Larson laid one for the Marines. Cadet Jaekuas, accompanied by Capt Willie L.Wright, laid the wreath for the Air Force.
Coast Guard Aux. Capt Carter accompanied Cadet Siske as they laid the wreath for the Coast Guard and Cadet Morietz laid the wreath for the Merchant Marines.
Finally, Cadet Casmer laid the wreath to honor the 93,852 men and women from all branches of the services whose last known status was either Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. The Color Guard and all past and present service men and women presented arms after each wreath was laid.
In her remarks to the group, Jean Reaves, constituent services representative and veterans’ liaison for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said, “Remember, honor, teach óremember the fallen, honor those who serve, teach our children the value of freedom”.
She challenged the audience to look at the young cadets of the Civil Air Patrol who had taken the time to remember and honor the American heroes. She said the ceremony helped the cadets learn leadership, organization, the merits of working as a unit and, above all, the value of freedom.
USAF Brigadier General (retd.) Gary H. Wilfong said the cold today reminded him of the conditions endured by soldiers in fox holes during past wars. He encouraged all assembled to engage a veteran in conversation and learn about some of their achievements and what they had sacrificed to allow us to enjoy our freedom today.
Capt Thomas expressed some thoughts on behalf of the cadets.
“Every gravestone marker at this national cemetery represents a cause or ideal held dear by the person who is buried there,” he said. He said ceremonies such as this one help us appreciate the sacrifices of the brave, fallen heroes for whom those ideals were worth so much more than their own lives.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of a recording of taps and the Color Guard retrieving the colors.
After the ceremony, Rodney G. Cress, Rowan County Veterans advocate and recipient of the Bronze Star in Vietnam, expressed gratitude for the work the Civil Air Patrol does to help promote awareness in the community.