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REMEMBER: Troy honors fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

More than 50 local residents gathered at Bicentennial Park Monday morning not to celebrate Memorial Day, but to remember those men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

“We honor all veterans on Veterans Day, but Memorial Day is a much more solemn occasion,” said Bob McLendon, commander of American Legion Post 70. “Barbecue and fun is later this afternoon; this morning is serious. We’re here to honor those who did not make it home.”

Col. Ken Faircloth, a Troy native and former pilot of Marine One during the Clinton and Obama administrations, addressed the crowd about the importance of the holiday and remembering the people who have died in service to the country.

“It’s a national holiday, but not a day that we celebrate; it’s a day that we mourn,” Faircloth said. “It’s a day that we remember the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice … More than 1.1 million men and women have died in wartime throughout our nation’s history. That’s more than the populations of Mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery combined … These numbers should humble us because they are husbands and wives, husband and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters – and their families have mourned and missed them every day.”

Faircloth reminded everyone that Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1863, when grieving Confederate wives, mothers and sisters began cleaning off Union graves as well as Confederate graves and decorating both sides with flowers.

“The observance of this day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863,” Faircloth said. “As the Civil War raged, wives, mothers and sisters cleaning graves noticed off to the side that the Union graves were dusty and overgrown with weeds. These Confederate women understood that these were cherished loved ones of families far away and cleaned their graves and also laid flowers on all of them.”

Faircloth called on all to remember the sacrifices of these men and women not only on Memorial Day, but every day.

“Warriors do this because of a calling to serve our country and our way of life,” Faircloth said. “Let us never forget our obligation to provide our troops with the tools they need to carry out their mission, to care for all those who have served, honor those we have lost, keep faith with our military families and never stop searching for those who are missing … We have all come together to honor and remember those who bravely forged forward into battle and so willingly fought and gave up their lives so that we could live freely in this land of freedom.”