By JOEL McNEECE
Rev. Buford Usry said today (Memorial Day) should be a sad day. Chief Warrant Officer Don Melton said it's time for "America to reconnect with its history and core values."
Usry and Melton were the featured speakers at Monday's Memorial Day services in Bruce and Calhoun City.
“Those here understand the meaning of Memorial Day,” Melton told the large gathering on the Bruce Square. “Sadly though, many Americans have lost this connection to our history.”
Melton, a 36-year veteran of the Mississippi National Guard who recently returned from a tour in Iraq, noted how many view the day as simply an opportunity to picnic or go shopping. He said it's dangerous not remembering that the price of freedom isn't cheap.
“We must remember our veterans and those who died for our freedom,” Melton said.
Melton referred to the “core values” of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage as critical components not just for the military, but our country.
“These values made our army strong and continue to keep our country strong,” Melton said.
He challenged the audience to make a difference by embodying these values and always remembering the soldiers who have fought and died to preserve America’s freedom.
Rev. Usry, a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima in World War II, urged all to remember those who paid the “greatest sacrifice.”
“Think about the deaths of so many that allowed us to gather here today on this square,” Usry said. “This isn't a holiday for sales. It's not a day just to get off work, for grilling. This is a day to spend time remembering. Remember the cost of our freedom.”
Rev. Usry referenced the near 1.25 million soldiers who have died serving the United States.
“They died wearing a uniform,” Usry said. “They died for our freedom.”
“I can’t separate myself as your speaker from who I am – a veteran, a combat wounded Marine who saw falling by my side comrade after comrade. My comrades died for me. My comrades died for you.”
Usry said most of those 1.25 million soldiers killed were 18-19 years old.
“If you could close your eyes and get a visual of all those young people still living today, that would be a beautiful sight,” Usry said. “Some of them may have been president, or great scientist or cured cancer.”
“They died so that we might have freedom,” Usry said, “so that these stores around this square could open their doors.”
Usry said a year ago he attended a service in Picayune for one of his best friends who was killed while fighting along side him at Iwo Jima. He had little family and his grave hadnt been kept up. Two of his nephews decided to erect a more appropriate monument last year.
“That was a sad day last year standing by that grave,” Usry said. “My buddy died for me so that I could be here today.”
“I don’t know how Americans couldn’t spend a little time remembering these men,” Usry said.