Published 5:19 pm Monday, May 25, 2009
The flag outside the Chilton County Courthouse flew at half-staff by the end of the Chilton County Veterans Memorial Day observance Monday morning.
Maj. Gene Hitchcock (USMC ret.) addressed the crowd gathered in front of the courthouse, first calling attention to the seven World War II veterans in attendance.
Hitchcock said World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,200 per day.
“There’s about half as many here this year as there was last year,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock gave a history of Memorial Day, telling how in the late 1860s southern women would clean up Confederate graves. In Columbus, Miss., women began cleaning up both Union and Confederate graves.
The practice caught on throughout the country over the years, and at the end of World War I Memorial Day became a holiday.
“This is the holiday the rest of the world thinks kicks off the summer,” Hitchcock said. “Many people also confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day.”
Hitchcock also spoke about the price of freedom.
“Freedom isn’t free,” he said. “Each generation has to be willing to pay a price.”
Hitchcock gave the total number of casualties for each war the United States has been involved in, adding up to well over one million.
“Just one would’ve been enough to remember,” he said.
Many veterans, of nearly every military branch, attended the service.
Jerry Grooms, post commander for American Legion Post 6, said he doesn’t look at Memorial Day as a holiday as some people do.
“It’s just an honor to be able to come out and pay your respects to those who served and gave their lives for our country,” Grooms said.
Grooms said he especially thinks of 10 men who were in his group in Vietnam, all killed on Christmas Eve.
“They gave their lives so I could be here today,” he said.
Morris Price, chairman of the Chilton County Veterans Memorial Committee, said it was a day to honor all veterans, but especially those who have paid the ultimate price.
“It’s a day to honor our local heroes,” he said.
The ceremony ended with a reading of the names of fallen veterans Chilton County who were killed in wars and conflicts since World War I.