Veteran Fred Dykes joined in a minute of silence as a salute to deceased veterans at a Memorial Day service in Brundidge Monday.Photo by Jaine Treadwell

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Standing in the presence of greatness


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Thomas Jefferson said the tree of liberty sometimes needs to be watered by the blood of patriots.

On Memorial Day 2001, people all across the nation gathered to remember and pay tribute to those whose blood watered the tree of liberty of this great nation.

In Pike County, services were held in Brundidge and in Troy, with larger than usual crowds in attendance, "but these places should be packed," one veteran whispered to another who nodded in agreement.

In Brundidge, Henry Middlebrooks, commander of VFW Post 7055, spoke of the dedication and commitment of the men and women who have served in all wars. He spoke of Flanders Fields where red poppies mark the final resting places of fallen soldiers. He spoke of those who came home from war to a grateful nation and of those who came home to a nation’s scorn. But most of all, he spoke of brave men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for their country and he asked for all to remember them and honor them.

In private conversations, R.C. Carter, a Pearl Harbor survivor, spoke of watching in horror from the west bank of the canal as Japanese war planes turned American ships into burial places for American soldiers and sailors. He remembered ‘hunkering down" waiting for orders that would send him to a defensive position on the island. He remembered death all around him. He remembered Pearl Harbor.

Vincent Allen spoke of his involvement in five major battles at Normandy. He remembered being sent back for replacements for those who had been killed each day.

"What cut me so bad was they would ask me what kind of outfit they were being sent to and all I could tell them was infantry," he said. "I couldn’t tell them they were going to the front lines. We brought in 900 replacements for one company. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about all those young men that I took in as replacements and who never came home. I won’t ever forget."

For Fred Dykes, being a part of the Memorial Day service was an honor. He wanted to be there so badly that he arrived in a wheel chair.

"I just wanted to be here to pay tribute to all those who gave their lives so that we can live in a free country," he said.

Dykes was not in the Battle of the Bulge, but he was in the wings. His infantry unit held a position of the Roer River and, thankfully, he didn’t know all of the devastation that was taking place just beyond him.

"On Thanksgiving Day we had turkey and dressing, the next day we were holding a position in 12 inches of snow," he said. "There wasn’t a day that went by that we weren’t fired upon. We were there through the winter with war raging. I got sprayed on the back of the head and neck with a white prosperous grenade, but that’s the only visible injury I have."

Dykes is like many who came home from war without many "visible" injuries, but with "injuries’ to the heart that will never heal.

F. Wayne Turner, commander American Legion, Department of Alabama, was the featured speaker at the Memorial Day service at Troy’s Bicentennial Park. He spoke of

those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom and those whose lives have been forever changed by war.

Turner said there have been all too many who have died in too many wars.

"Four days after the Battle at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said in his famous address that ‘the world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but they will never forget what they did here,’" Turner said. "We must not forget the men and women who have purchased our freedom at a heavy price."

Turner challenged those before him to teach our small children that without citizens who are willing to die for freedom, we will not have freedom.

"We now have 1.4 million men and women who stand guard for us," he said. "The world is a dangerous place. We must thank God for those who keep it safe."

Turner honored those veterans who attended the Memorial Day service with the words, "I am standing in the presence of greatness."

To that, were many whispers of "Amen."