Remembering lives, honoring sacrifices on Memorial Day

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, May 31, 2022

By Elisabeth Strillacci

SALISBURY — The flags snapped as if saluting the veterans and their families in attendance at Monday morning’s Memorial Day ceremony at Salisbury National Cemetery.

A smaller than expected but devoted crowd of more than 100 people gathered under tents to dodge the already-warm morning sun as Mark Beaver, outgoing president of the Rowan County Veteran Council, who was a driving force behind organizing the event, welcomed everyone after a two year hiatus.

“This is not a day of celebration, but a day of remembrance,” said Beaver. “It is a chance to pay respect to our fallen heroes who didn’t make it home, but instead sacrificed to give us the our freedom today.”

Phillip Smyre and Micah Lee, director and assistant director of Salisbury National Cemetery respectively, both thanked the crowd for coming out.

“I just want to remind you that our cemetery is one of only 155 National Cemeteries in the country, so we take our role here very seriously,” said Smyre, before turning the microphone over to Lee, who gave a “big thanks to Ronnie Smith, all the participants and organizers, and in particular, to the employees here who came to work every day during COVID for two years to make sure all here were cared for.”

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander presented a proclamation to Bernie Sahadi of the Scottish-American Military Society and incoming president of the Rowan County Veteran Council.

“I encourage all our residents to reflect on the sacrifices of the veterans who so valiantly have given their all,” she said. “The city of Salisbury recognizes with gratitude all they and their families have given.”

“This is not just another Memorial Day,” said County Commissioner Greg Edds. “If you parked down below, like I did, and walked up the hill behind us, you became very aware of all the headstones. Then I watched the colors coming and being presented, and men young and old snapping to attention. Our veterans need to know, they will never be forgotten. We salute you.”

“All across this country, communities are having ceremonies like this one,” said Rep. Harry Warren, (R-76). “The words we say are heartfelt and true. The sacrifices veterans have made are not just on the battlefield, but in time away from home and family. And the effects, sadly, are not just physical, but mental and emotional. We need to remember all that veterans come home to deal with.”

Martha Corriher, president of the American legion Auxiliary Unit 141 in Landis, sang several songs, including the Star Spangled Banner, before introducing guest speaker Staff Sergeant Brett Miller.

“He has probably attended or taken part in more funerals here in Salisbury than anyone besides the employees of the cemetery,” she said. “I am proud to introduce a dedicated soldier and American.”

Miller is not only staff sergeant but section chief of Company C of the 1-131st Aviation Regiment in Rowan County, and is the third generation of his family in the military. A well-trained and outstanding bugler, “I have sounded those 24 notes on the bugle nearly five days a week, weekends included, for seven and a half years. I have folded thousands of flags and been pall bearer more times than I can count. But every single time, it is an honor.”

Miller said being asked to speak at the service was “incredibly humbling. They usually get a Vietnam veteran or congressman or someone important to do this. I’m just an ordinary man.”

Following Miller’s remarks, American Legion members Charlie Frick and Tom Thompson presented the annual wreath while members of the Rowan County Honor Guard presented a firearms salute. The playing of Taps closed out the morning.