Under a bright May sun and cloudless blue skies, cadets from the Dawson County High School Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program hoisted flags from each branch of the United States Armed Forces on Monday morning, along with the MIA/POW and American flags, as “Taps” was played by a lone trumpeter.
The ceremony, witnessed by dozens of community members and local leaders at Veterans Memorial Park in Dawson County, was part of the yearly observance of Memorial Day hosted by Veterans Affairs of Dawson County.
In 2020, the group’s annual Memorial Day event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but according to Don Brown, Veterans Affairs of Dawson County president, this year they were able to bring the public event back, bigger and better than ever.
"I'm happy with today, I'm happy we had people come out," Brown said after the ceremony. "I think today people wanted to get out, it's 'I can get out, so I'm going to go do this honor.'"
In addition to the flag-raising ceremony, cadets carried out a ceremony with a Missing Man Table, honoring those who never returned home from war, leaving family and loved ones behind.
According to Dawson County High School JROTC Instructor Steve Pamplin, all 21 of the cadets that participated in the ceremony volunteered for the event, wanting to get out and do something in the community after a year of canceled events honoring veterans.
"All of them volunteered," Pamplin said. “It's nice to get back to normal again because we couldn't do this last year. We missed out on the veterans day parade last year, we missed out on our summer camp last year, all those things are going on and we're excited about it."
Community members in attendance on Monday also heard from guest speaker state Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville), who spoke about the unifying nature of Memorial Day, stating that it was a day to set aside differences and remember those who “answered the call to serve.”
"Today we're not Republicans or Democrats. We're Americans. We need to get back to that. Remembering the servants, the true people that sacrificed for us,” Wade said. "But it's also a day for us to be excited and cherish the fact that we do have the freedoms that we have and hold them dear, and never, ever, forget those that gave their life so that we might be free."