Atmore celebrates Memorial DayPublished 4:28pm Monday, May 28, 2012
Community members and local veterans packed the lawn in front of Atmore City Hall Monday morning, surrounding Atmore’s Veterans Memorial for a Memorial Day tribute to soldiers from the local area who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America.
Brigadier General Wendell B. McLain served as the morning’s keynote speaker, before members of the American Legion, Post 90 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 7016 read aloud each name memorialized on the city’s monument, including the two newest editions-Kenneth Newton, killed in Vietnam and Travis Nelson, killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
McLain, a 35-year member of the United States armed forces, who has also been awarded the Bronze Star, said he found the patriotic spirit of the people of Atmore refreshing.
“It’s a small town in Alabama that has a real patriotic feeling among the people,” McLain said. “You don’t find that just everywhere.”
McLain said it is important for people to understand Memorial Day is set aside specifically for soldiers who lost their lives serving their country, where as Veterans Day is a holiday to honor living military vets.
“A lot of people don’t know what Memorial Day is for and a lot of people get it confused with Veterans Day,” McLain said. “Memorial Day is a sacred day of remembrance for all who died for our country. Today we pause to honor all of those heroes who died for our nation’s service.”
VFW Commander Billy Gates and Atmore Mayor Howard Shell also spoke during Monday’s ceremony. Veterans Ted Presley, Rodger Presley, Ivan Stewart and Noah McBride participated in the changing of the American Flag, while Lana Langford contributed to the event, performing the National Anthem.
A memorial wreath was also placed at the base of the Veterans Monument by Gates, American Legion Commander Ron Weinman and American Legion member Aubrey Stanley.
The ceremony closed with a three-volley firing, the playing of Taps by Justin Gates and an emotional benediction by American Legion Chaplain Jack Wright.
According to research compiled by McLain, the American Legion and the VFW for Monday’s ceremony, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day beginning in the mid 1800s.
McLain said the number of soldiers lost, just during the modern era, is staggering. He reported 500,000 U.S. soldiers killed in action in during World War I and World War II; 100,000 killed during the Korean War and Vietnam; 6,400 lost in military efforts since September 11, 2001, including 701 National Guard members. McLain said 425 of the 6,400, including 49 guardsmen, have died in the last year.