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Veterans Affairs of Dawson County holds Memorial Day service
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Attendees pledge allegiance to the flag during the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County Memorial Day service on May 30. - photo by Erica Jones

On Monday May 30, the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County held a Memorial Day service to honor those who have fought for and who have lost their lives fighting for their country. 

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The flags of each branch of the United States military fly high during the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County Memorial Day service on May 30. - photo by Erica Jones

The ceremony took place at Veterans Memorial Park and included a keynote address by retired Col. Anthony Dill, as well as the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, raising of the flag and several other symbolic acts performed by students in the Dawson County High School JROTC program. 

The ceremony opened with an invocation by Veterans Affairs of Dawson County (VADC) Treasurer Bob Thornton and a welcome by VADC President Rob Wiley. During his remarks, Wiley explained the battlefield cross in the middle of the monument at Veterans Memorial Park, memorializing a soldier who has died in battle.

“I know several of you have stood in the ceremonies where they have these battle crosses, and there’s nothing more gut-wrenching that standing in one of those ceremonies; the only thing I can think that’s more gut-wrenching than that is if you’re the family and you hear that car door shut outside and you look outside and see a chaplain and a notification officer walking to your door,” Wiley said. “That kind of brings a little bit of emotion but I want you to feel that emotion as we go through the ceremony today because these are men and women that gave their life for the country for the freedoms that we enjoy today.” 

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Retired Col. Anthony Dill gives the keynote address during the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County Memorial Day service on May 30. - photo by Erica Jones

During his keynote speech, Dill explained what the importance of Memorial Day is and what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“Today marks our annual Memorial Day observance, a day of remembrance that started around 1865 during the American Civil War,” Dill said. “Unlike Veterans Day, Memorial Day is a time specifically designated to honor military members that paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation. There is no greater service to a nation than giving one’s life for one’s country.” 

Dill added that, while Memorial Day is a solemn occasion, it is also a time for celebration of life and brotherhood that those who have fought for their country share with their teammates. While it is nowhere near the sacrifice that those who have lost their lives for their countries have made, he said that paying tribute to them on Memorial Day is just one way to never forget those sacrifices made. 

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Cadets from the DCHS JROTC program explain the symbolism behind the “missing man table” during the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County Memorial Day service on May 30. - photo by Erica Jones

“Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us: the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom,” Dill said. “We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle and ran into hell to face down evil. They made their sacrifice not for fame or for money or even for glory, but for country. Today as we celebrate their life and remember their sacrifice, may we be forever inspired by their selfless service; as we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” 

Dill included a challenge in his speech, encouraging those in attendance to take the time to find and read a medal of honor citation as an added way of observing Memorial Day. 

“Beyond a moment of silence today, I challenge everybody here to take a minute sometime today to go find and read a medal of honor citation from one of our service members, often outnumbered and that was lost in combat,” Dill said. “Their stories immortalize unfathomable heroism, bayonet charges against overwhelming odds, hails of gunfire or disregarding their own safety to save a fellow comrade. Reflect on how our heroes performed in their darkest hour and be inspired every day by their courage and sacrifice for all of us.” 

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Cadets from the DCHS JROTC program lay wreaths in front of the monument at Veterans Memorial Park during the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County Memorial Day service on May 30. - photo by Erica Jones

Cadets from the DCHS JROTC program raised the national colors and led event attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. They then raised flags for each of the five branches of the military, taking the time to recognize the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. 

The cadets also took the time to explain the table set up in the center of the gathering, filled with symbolism to honor those who fought for their country but never returned home. These symbols included a white tablecloth to symbolize the purity of the intentions of those who have fought to defend their country, a single rose to symbolize the loved ones of those who have yet to return home, a plate containing a lemon and salt to symbolize the bitter fates of those not brought home and the tears of their families and a yellow ribbon to symbolize those awaiting their loved ones’ return. 

The ceremony ended with the laying of the wreath performed by the cadets, a moment of silence for prisoners of war and those missing in action, and a performance of “Taps” by trumpet player Palmer Hartley.