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For those who gave all

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Lancaster residents gather to honor fallen heroes

By Greg Summers

Each year, the amount of shade provided by the big oak tree in front of the veteran’s memorial at Lancaster Memorial Park grows.

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And so does the number of flags placed there every Memorial Day. 

America owes an enormous debt to everyone whose remains lay beneath those flags, said Korean War veteran Ernest Stroud in reading a governor’s proclamation during the 22nd annual Memorial Day program on Sunday, May 26.

Those who sat in the shade of that massive hardwood were urged to remember the price of sacrifice that comes with freedom to protect a way of life.

When the Memorial Day program started in 1991, about 288 American flags were placed in the park. Now the number has climbed to almost 1,300. 

Stroud said preserving the peace and promoting freedom has claimed the lives of many South Carolinians, including the 197 who names are etched on the monument.

“We appreciate your being here today,” Stroud said.

When Stroud recognized military veterans in the crowd, he accidentally left out the U.S. Marine Corps. His oversight drew a round laughter when members of the Lancaster County Leathernecks, Marine Corps League Detachment 1169, belted out with a hearty, “Ooh-rah.”

“I knew I missed one,” Stroud said. “We appreciate living in a free America where we can laugh at things like that.”

The county’s three Gold Star Mothers – Ruby Lee Sowell, Nancy Walters and Doris Wilson – were also honored. Walters and Wilson were unable to attend. Sowell received an ovation.

Gold Star Mothers are women whose children lost their lives while serving on active military duty.

Their sons – Harry Sowell Jr. (Sowell), Michael Robinson (Wilson) and Richard “Ricky” Walters – were killed in Vietnam.  Robin Helms of Lancaster County Veteran’s Affairs read a poem to honor the three women. Their grief, she said, is known near and far.

“Freedom has a price and it cost your son or daughter,” Helms said. “Before you leave today, go by and shake their hands. Let them know you appreciate the sacrifice their sons made.”    

When Helms and Beth Raffaldt of Lancaster County Veteran’s Affairs read the honor roll of the county veterans who died since Memorial Day 2012, many in the crowd stared at the ground, obviously recognizing many of the names called before “Taps” was played.

The crowd sang “God Bless America” before the final American flags were placed throughout Memorial Park. Cadets in the Marine Corps JROTC unit at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill were at the park earlier in the day to place flags in the outlying parts of the cemetery.

“Lord, as we go from this place, we ask that it always be hallowed ground,” Stroud said in the closing prayer. 

 

Contact copy editor Gregory A. Summers at (803) 283-1156