DAV pays respects to the fallen

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The solemn service was a poignant reminder of the personal cost of freedom.

Members of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51 lined up at the Lawrence County Courthouse Wednesday, standing silently in front of the monument that bears the names of some of Lawrence County’s fallen sons.

DAV Commander Stephen Saunders told those who gathered that Memorial Day is meant to honor and remember these young men and the service they rendered to their nation at the cost of their own lives.

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“As we go about our daily lives we tend to forget things,” Saunders said. “Memorial Day is a time to remember.”

Saunders mentioned Donald Long, who flung himself on a hand grenade to save the lives of eight of the men in his unit during a particularly fierce battle in Vietnam.

“This is what true leadership is,” Saunders said. “True leadership is not about ordering people around, it is about a man who sacrificed his life to save his men.”

He pointed also to Roger Smith, who died on his first day of combat in Vietnam.Saunders said rather than celebrate, Memorial Day is a time to grieve for these service men and women and others who went to war but never came home.

“American has given some of it’s best to protect its freedom,” he said.

Saunders urged those who attended to also remember those who came home but whose lives were forever altered by their experiences. He also urged them to think of the families who suffer along with those who fought.

Brenda Kelly came with her daughter, Reni Pinkerman. Kelly’s husband and Pinkerman’s father is Jim Kelley, a DAV member.

Both said they attend every year to support their loved one and the other members

who take time to plan and conduct the memorial tribute. Kelley said she wished more people would have attended the ceremony.

“I think it’s pitiful,” she said.

Connie Fisher said she came because she knew David Ford IV, who was killed last year in Iraq.

“I went to high school with him,” she said. “He was a good kid who would help anybody.”

Two wreaths were laid at the memorial at the end of the service: One for those who died in Vietnam and those who died in the post-Vietnam era, including Operation Desert Storm and the ongoing war in Iraq.

Charles Brammer was one of the DAV members who took part in Wednesday’s ceremony. He said this tribute to his service “meant the world to him” yet still, he can’t help but think he is one of the fortunate ones. He came home; others did not.

“Sometimes I feel just sorrow for the boys that are gone,” he said. “They just didn’t make it back. This is letting everybody know we remember them and appreciate what they had done.”