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Freedom isn’t free

Residents of Pike County flocked to Bicentennial Park despite the dark clouds to show respect for the county’s fallen soldiers Monday.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he anticipated Troy would have one of the larger crowds around the state.

“I would venture to say this will be one of the larger crowds across the state,” Lunsford said.

American Legion Post 70 Commander Bob McLendon declared Memorial Day “a very special day to hour our fallen brothers and sisters.”

Lunsford spoke of the many men and women who worked during the late 1960s or early 1970s to get this service started.

“I see so many who were involved in coming up with Bicentennial Park,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford thanked those who make sure the flags were put out at least four days a year, including Flag Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day, but said Memorial Day is the most sacred.

The guest speaker was SFC Mike Nuttall who is serving at Fort Rucker as a special operations instructor, who trains soldiers what to do in case they become a prisoner of war.

Nuttall began his speech mentioning the new policy enacted by President Barack Obama to allow for soldiers’ families to decide if media coverage is allowed when a solider killed in combat returns to Dover, Del.

Nuttall said seeing an American-flag draped casket poses many questions in ones mind from who the person is to what happened to how old the person was.

“Feelings of thanks, pride or honor – those feelings are what Memorial Day is about,” Nuttall said. “We celebrate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Freedom is great, but it comes at a price,” Nuttall said. “Individual Americans should keep their soldiers in their prayers and hearts.”

Nuttall said recognition is far less important than what these soldiers sacrificed for.

While for some soldiers killed in action, Americans may never know the final resting place, but Nuttall said he is confident their souls are with God.

During his speech, Nuttall spoke of a soldier killed in February 2007, during a Chanuk helicopter crash.

Nuttall said the young solider was one of those who “you liked hom and you knew he was going to be good.”

According to Nuttall the solider was assigned to the daily crew in Afghanistan as part of the Flight Platoon, but Nuttall said the solider wanted to do more.

“Travis would go and fly for hours while the others were asleep to be able to fly missions,” Nuttall said.

Through the perseverance and dedication, the young solider never had to experience life a member of the daily crew again. He was assigned to the mission crew of the Flight Platoon and hauled wounded Americans, detainees and helped get soldiers where they needed to be. This solider was killed during a mission when his helicopter went down. “Twenty-two people were on board and eight service members died,” Nuttall said.

“(These soldiers) may be little known to the American people for their service,” Nuttall said. “But, through Memorial Day they would never be individually forgotten.”

Nuttall suggested to all in attendance to make Arlington National Cemetery one of the first places to see when touring Washington, D.C.

He said all the graves hold one common thing – “U.S.” “U.S. represents values. U.S. binds these soldiers from the revolution to our most current conflicts,” Nuttall said.

Nuttall also talked about the importance of recognizing the families who had lost their loved one in combat.

A presentation was made to the Gold Star Mothers, including Johnnie Brown’s mother, who was present at the ceremony. Brown was killed in action in 2003.

A memorial wreath was also placed on the Veterans Memorial in honor of Pike Countians killed in action, which was followed by a moment of silence.

David “Doc” Kirby and Michael O’Hara performed “Taps.”

Charles Henderson High School’s JROTC presented the colors, and military honors were done by Charlie’s Angels.

The American Flags placed around Bicentennial Park are in honor of each Pike County soldier killed in action, the Veterans Memorial also carries the names of each of those.

Click here for pictures from the Memorial Day Program..