Like tears from Heaven, rain kissed the cheeks of onlookers Monday at the Elkin Municipal Park during the Memorial Day Ceremony.
Hosted by the Captain Mark Garner Post 7794 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, ceremony highlights included the Elkin High School JROTC presenting the colors and the national anthem sung by members of the Elkin High School Special Chorus.
Although “Taps” performed by Mike Weddington of Wilkes County Schools was difficult to see through the very light spatter of rain, it was the roll call of recent deceased veterans that had those in attendance wiping away tears.
Stirring in spite of the solemn occasion, the speech delivered by U.S. Army Retired Brigadier Gen. James R. Gorham pointed out that every person has the opportunity to be a hero.
“These men and women were just ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things in the midst of unimaginable situations,” said the son of a sharecropper from eastern North Carolina.
“Out of all the accolades that have been bestowed upon me in my life, the one that I cherish the most, the one that I covet the most is the fact that I was born to a sharecropper. That’s all that I really want you to know is that I was born to a sharecropper. All that other stuff don’t matter,” said Gorham, “and that I’m a child of God.”
Gorham is also an ordained minister with the St. Peter’s Church & World Outreach Center in Winston-Salem who offered words, “to sustain us during this time of transition and terrorism.”
The first word the retired general said was “blessed.”
“In my definition, it means empowered to prosper,” said Gorham, “and to give a word of hope which is defined by me as joyful, confident, expectation for the future. A future full of uncertainty and immense challenges.”
Through these words, Gorham hoped to inspire others to follow in the service being honored by the ceremony.
“Men and women who above all else believed in and fought and died for a set of ideals that we hold sacred,” said Gorham, “who chose to serve the cause that was greater than themselves even after they knew that they would be placed in harm’s way. And they paid the ultimate price — their life.”
In spite of the sorrow caused by war, it is necessary to the balance of freedom, according to VFW Post Commander Richard Hackler.
“I’ve heard someone say that they just wish there was no war. I too look forward to that day, but you have to understand that the only way that war is going to stop is if there’s no opposing force,” said Hackler, who is both descended of veterans as well as producing them.
“If there’s no opposing force then there’s no war, then there’s just tyranny. As long as there are people who would like to take away your freedoms and ability to make decisions for yourself, there will be war,” said Hackler.
This does not necessarily mean hatred.
“They did not serve, fight and die because they hated the enemies that stood before them,” said Gorham of those veterans being honored, “they served, fought and died because they loved the ones like you and I who stood behind them.”
They also loved the ones who stood beside them.
“The Good Book says that there’s no greater love than a man or woman who is willing to lay down their lives for their friends,” said Gorham, “and so as we come here today to commemorate and pay tribute to all these great Americans who have paid the ultimate price for the liberties and the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted, let me remind you that your freedom is not free. A great price has been paid throughout the generations of this country.”
“These individuals were committed to those they served for and those whom they served with,” said Hackler, “because of that they counted their lives greater than their own.
“They have fallen because they stood. They stood as a barrier to tyranny. They stood to protect those that they did not know. They stood to protect their families. They stood to protect their friends. They stood to protect their brothers and sisters in arms. They stood to protect their country. They stood far from home.
“They stand before us now as witnesses of our responsibility as a nation to stand where they stood and finish the task; to protect the weak, to give hope to those who have lost theirs and to stand as a barrier to tyranny. We should never forget what these individuals have done. They gave up their lives so that we might be here today.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.