Kannapolis honors missing soldiers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS — Five soldiers, representing the five branches of the United States military, solemnly marched around the table, each holding a hat representative of a soldier who was a prisoner of war, or missing in action. The soldiers stopped, their soft marching echoing in the breeze.
Turning slowly, each deposited his hat on the place where a soldier from his branch would sit, were he not missing.
Each item placed on the table of remembrance for POW/MIA soldiers at the ceremony here had a meaning. The hats were only one part of the ceremony to remember the soldiers. As master of ceremonies Jimmy Wilson, of American Legion Post No. 115, narrated, the soldiers took turns honoring the ones not present.
The white tablecloth represented the purity of a POW/MIA soldiers sacrifice; a long white candle “represents the frailty of that prisoner alone, standing against his oppressors;” the candle, tied with a black ribbon, and the black napkin, represented the soldiers who were gone; a single rose was placed for the families who wait; a red-white-and-blue ribbon was tied with a yellow ribbon to represent the yellow ribbons in support of military everywhere; a lemon was placed on each plate to represent the bitter fate of POW/MIA soldiers; salt was shaken on each plate to represent tears; toasting glasses were inverted, since the missing soldiers cannot toast; and a Bible was placed on the table to represent the faith of all soldiers.
Special guest Staff Sgt. Harold Eustache, an Army Ranger attached to the 101st Airborne unit in Fort Bragg, recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Though not on the program, Eustache spoke briefly on his experiences in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I lost my best friends there,” he told the crowd gathered. “These are special people. I just want everyone to know that Memorial Day is not just a celebration of barbecues. It’s a celebration of soldiers.”
The crowd rose and applauded him, as well as Army Col. Dr. Hector Henry, keynote speaker at the ceremony who is currently serving at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“This is a day to remember those who paid the highest price,” Henry told the crowd.
During his speech, Henry implored the crowd gathered to continue to support the military.
“We’re the most powerful country in the world and we need to be able to keep it that way,” said Henry. “We need to remember the brave young — and not so young — men and women. These young folks are willing to make the final sacrifice for us to be free.
“While they did not volunteer to die, they volunteered to defend,” added Henry. “Be proud of those who sacrificed for you. Freedom is not and has never been free.”
During the ceremony, presented by Beaver-Pittman American Legion Post No. 115, Poston-Perkins Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 8989 and the Ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary, the 50 flags of the United States, plus Puerto Rico, were presented in a joint effort between the Navy JROTC unit at A.L. Brown High School and the Airforce JROTC unit at Northwest Cabarrus High School. The A.L. Brown High School Chorus Ensemble sang the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as other patriotic music, and Army Chaplain (Capt.) Josh White, attached to the S.C. Army National Guard, presented invocation, benediction and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Special music was also provided by Paul Hill and Wilson. The Kannapolis Police Department Honor Guard, led by Lt. Ken Jackson, presented a 21 gun salute and Gordon Snyder, director of the A.L. Brown High School band, presented “Taps.”
Tina Williams served in the U.S Navy for 10 years. She brought her son, Jacob Cook, 5, to the day’s ceremony.
“It’s Memorial Day,” she said with a shrug when asked why she came. “Raise them right, you know?”
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-797-4248 or news@salisburypost.com.