By Rebekah K. Bohannon Beeler
The flags were flying at half-staff at the county war memorial across from the courthouse lawn in preparation for the Cumberland County Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 27. Patriotic marches were provided by the Cumberland County Band, directed by Murray Kidwell. The Ascension Lutheran Church and the Red Cross set up hospitality tents, and the Exchange Club passed out programs and American flags. So many representatives of the branches of service were present among scores of residents who were there to pay homage to the American servicemen and women who were lost in their course to preserve American freedoms.
“It’s been big the last number of years,” Barbara Parsons, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), remarked on the turn out. “I remember a time back in the 80s [when] you could fit everyone one who came in the far corner. But now it just keeps growing.”
Ed Lewis, US Navy veteran, opened the ceremony. “The difference between Memorial Day and Thanksgiving is that Thanksgiving is a day designated so the nation would give thanks for all they have and all that they enjoy," Lewis said. "Memorial Day is a day designated for the nation to give thanks for the millions of brave men and women who gave their lives so we could enjoy everything we have.”
The Korean War Veterans Association presented the colors and the crowd was led in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Rusty McClanahan singing the National Anthem backed by the Cumberland County Band.
“Never to forget nor take for granted the brave men and women protecting the country we love,” encouraged Chaplain David Henry during his invocation. Charles Loveday recognized the Gold Star Mothers in this county who have lost sons in the service, and the American Legion Post 163 presented them with flowers. All the branches of service were recognized throughout the crowd that gathered at the courthouse. Bill Ward proceeded to recognize the veteran service organizations which carry the purpose of working to remember those who didn’t come home.
Memorial Day began as the widows and daughters of the soldiers who had died during the Civil War began marking and decorating the graves of the fallen. These women eventually became the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which seeks to memorialize and keep alive the memories of those who have died in their service to this country. It was known as Decoration Day and, sometime after World War II, was changed to Memorial Day and included all fallen soldiers from all American wars.
The UDC and many other organizations, such as: Sons of Confederate Veterans, Fleet Reserve Association and the Ladies Auxiliary, Vietnam Veterans Association 1015, Cumberland County Veteran Association, Military Officer Association of America, VFW Posts 2055 and 9686, American Legion Posts 163 and 238, and the Special Forces Association are all organizations which include, as part of their charter, to uphold the memory of those who have gone before them using the discipline and memory to better one’s community. It is a fellowship needed to uplift and sustain the communities for which the fallen fought to protect.
Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey, Jr. served as a guest speaker for the Memorial Day Ceremony, as did Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III, both reiterated the importance of Memorial Day and to appreciate and respect those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect Americans and their freedoms.
When defining Memorial Day, Mayor J.H. Graham III stated, “It is the promise that this country made to never forget those who died and fought for this country. Memorial Day is not another day, not another day off or a long weekend.”
Waiting on the ceremony’s keynote speaker, US Representative Cameron Sexton, to arrive, Ed Lewis regaled the audience with the story of a World War II veteran he was interviewing. The gentleman refused to be called a “hero.” He told Lewis that he was an 18-year-old kid doing his job and not to call him a hero. Lewis respectfully disagreed as the entire crowd generally conceded this man was a hero, as are all those who have served, are serving and gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving.
Needing to be able to retire the colors, as Memorial Day calls the flags to be flown at half-staff and raised again at noon, the Cumberland County Band struck up and Rusty McClanahan led everyone in “God Bless America.” Bill Ward expressed his appreciation for all of the groups who helped put the ceremony together and with Chaplain David Henry giving the benediction, the colors were retired by the Korean Veterans Association. Beth Morgan played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
The Cumberland County Band played Tennessee’s anthem “Rocky Top,” heckling Ed Lewis for his playful bantering of the band that he thought they were going to confuse it with the National Anthem.
Representative Cameron Sexton arrived shortly after the ceremony came to a close and conveyed regret that he didn’t make it in time because he had an appearance at Boy’s State in Cookeville saying, “I was hoping that the ceremony would have been a little longer.”
The crowds dispersed, as Beth Morgan skillfully played a few more tunes on her bagpipes and the flags were raised to full staff to symbolically raise up the memories of those who gave their lives for this country and resolve to not allow their sacrifices be in vain.
A World War II Veteran’s Luncheon will be held at the Crossville Shoney’s on June 21 and an Independence Day celebration will be held at the courthouse that will also honor American patriotism and American service members. For more information about the Veteran’s Luncheon contact Ed Lewis at (931) 788-6222.