Community gathers at courthouse for Sept. 11 observance

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

They stopped to remember.

A few dozen people gathered Saturday morning on the Lawrence County Courthouse lawn to observe the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor those who are serving their country now at home and abroad.

The Red White and Blue Committee, a local organization of veterans, planned the reception as a tribute to military personnel past and present, and to honor police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

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"This is a tribute to those still standing on the front lines assuring our way of life," committee member Bill Sheridan said.

"They need to know people remember them, and support them," committee member Craig Allen agreed.

"You don't have to support the way to support the troops."

Committee member Mark Malone read a letter from Lt. Col. Scott Evans, commander of the 216th Engineer Battalion, currently stationed in Tikrit, Iraq. That battalion has numerous local National Guard personnel in its ranks.

In his letter, Evans thanked local people for their support and asked that such support continue.

"You should all be very proud of our soldiers," Evans said in his letter. "I am honored to serve with them. In my eyes they are all heroes quietly risking their lives every day in a hostile environment. They ask virtually nothing in return except to return to the homes and families they love."

Evans wrote that to date, three members of the 216th have been killed in action and four others wounded.

For Ronald McFann, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 765, attending the ceremony with

fellow Purple Heart recipients and with his wife, Donna, and granddaughter, Laken Reynolds. Donna McFann said her brother, Jeffrey Webb, returned earlier this year

from Iraq and may have to return for another tour of duty in January.

Ronald McFann said his thoughts and prayers are with those who are going through now what he went through years ago in service to his country. And he had some words of advice.

"Keep your head down and give them all you've got," Ronald McFann said. "Pray to the Lord that you make it through."

The crowd of people who attended was dotted with the uniforms, insignia and head gear of those who have gone to war and have come safely home.

Stephen Saunders, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51, said he was pleased with the local observance.

"People cannot be given too much respect," Saunders said. "It's a far cry from Vietnam where people spit on returning soldiers, called them pigs and baby killers and other atrocious names."

Saunders said he hopes government officials will put their money where their messages are and make sure the Veterans Administration is properly funded to care for the needs of returning soldiers and veterans.