‘The mighty have fallen’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Messenger Intern

Hundreds of American flags waved symbolically in the meager breeze, while a bleacher of resourceful patriots used their programs for fans.

The rest of the crowd sought for cooler climates in the shadows of the trees in Bicentennial Park on Monday.

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But no amount of typically hot weather weather was going to stop Pike County veterans and supporters from showing respect and pride for those who have served their country and county on Memorial Day.

"Memorial Day is often trivialized as the beginning of summer. It was been reduced to a mere spot on the calendar when it deserves far more respect than that," said Commander Fred Kreps, American Legion Post No. 70.

"Today is a glorious day. It is a day to remember those who have fallen. It is a day to remember those who are currently serving."

"I am proud, and, by God, I am free thanks to the veterans," said Karen Berry, chairman of the Pike County Commission.

Memorial Day originated in 1866 and was called Decoration Day, and, even today, some people call it by its original name.

In 1971, it was officially made an official holiday by Congress.

"It’s not just another holiday. It’s not just another day off for work or a day to go the pool. We must remember that sacrifice is lost without remembrance," said Frank Wilkes, director of Alabama State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wilkes, who was the guest speaker, also demonstrated the power of persuasion.

He was upset last year when he discovered that a high school American history book dedicated only one page to the history of American military.

However, after he called the state superintendent and mentioned showing the book to veterans who have been intimately involved in warfare, American history in Alabama was taught a little differently the following year.

"You better believe that the next year they changed books and a whole chapter was devoted to military history. And that’s the way it should be," Wilkes said.

But going to war isn’t the only way to support America, he said. Pike County citizens can donate their energies, time and money to veteran service organizations.

"Right now, patriotism is at an all time high, and we need to work on bringing young people in," said Randy Ross, Veterans Service officer for Pike County.

Ross also believes that veterans have a story to tell and so, therefore, their stories should be told.

"They each have stories to tell and some are very compelling," said Ross, a self-proclaimed history buff.

However, no matter how many years or what personal differences may separate them, veterans all have a like trait, according to David Kirby, who played "Taps" during the placement of the memorial wreath.

"There is one trait that can be found in veterans, no matter the background or race. They all have humility in common. They always say, ‘No, the guys that didn’t make it back, they’re the heroes,’" Kirby said.