Ceremony honors those who died for freedom

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Lakeina Francis was only onboard the USS Cole two weeks before she died in October 2000 along with 16 others when the ship was attacked by terrorists.
It’s a day that brings sadness not only to her family, but to the commander of the ship — Command Master Chief James Parlier, who sailed with the 19-year-old. Parlier was the guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day service held at the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex on the grounds of the Hefner VA Medical Center. He spoke fondly of Francis of Woodleaf.
“I remember her positive attitude when she checked into my office. She loved her job. She knew that being a good cook meant good morale for the crew,” Parlier said.
Francis was following in the footsteps of her father, Ronald, who is a retired Navy chief.
Parlier spoke of Francis’ quiet demeanor and the different high schools she attended as her family moved around.
Her shipmates would joke about her not being daddy’s girl anymore.
“That will stay with me,” Parlier said.
Many of Ronald’s family is buried at the cemetery, he said following the ceremony including his in-laws, and daughter.
And one day, “I will be there,” he said.
“Our whole family served,” he said.
He named uncles, in-laws, father, grandfather and great-grandfather who all served in the military.
“When they are no longer here, you always reflect on stories. Stories that have been passed down through the generations,” Ronald said.
He never had the opportunity to share “sea stories” with his daughter.
He said Memorial Day is very dear to his heart because of his family’s history of serving in the armed services.
Beverly Hurst and her adult children, Lori Hyler and Jennie van Dongen along with their children were at the ceremony to honor her husband and their father, Lloyd Hurst.
Hurst of Kannapolis died in 2010. He served in the Army during the Korean conflict.
“We are here to pay respect to the current military,” van Dongen said.
She said people tend to use Memorial Day as a day off from work and they “forget what the day means.”
Memorial Day is formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Memorial Day now honors those who’ve died in all wars.
Aida Alamo is proud of her son, Staff Sgt. Luis Alamo III, and being surrounded by other military personnel, amongst the many graves of soldiers buried at the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex takes her back to the day he died.
Luis joined the Army as his father, also named Luis, had done more than 35 years ago.
The younger Alamo died Jan. 21 at the age of 31. The family attended the Memorial Day ceremony at the historic cemetery.
“It stirs up very recent emotions,” Aida said.
Although she is filled with sadness, Aida is also a proud mother.
“He achieved a lot in his short life. He gave a lot,” she said.
Alamo was awarded two purple hearts, which are given to members of the military who are wounded or killed while serving.
In 2008, the Post talked with Alamo and his father, who served in Iraq with the 846th Transportation Co. from Salisbury. The two were deployed in Iraq at the same time.
The senior Alamo remains in the Army.
His son served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Luis Alamo III’s wife is expecting their first child together.
The Alamos son-in-law is also in the military.
Roughly 4,000 soldiers and family of soldiers are buried at the annex, located adjacent to the Hefner VA Medical Center. It is the only “open” national cemetery site in North Carolina. The original cemetery, established and dedicated by the U.S government after the Civil War, located at Railroad Street has about 7,000 white markers.
Earlier Monday morning a few veterans and current service men and women attended a wreath-laying service at Salisbury National Cemetery to honor those who’ve died.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.