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Monday observance to mark Memorial Day

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Greenville area residents salute the flag during the Pitt County Veterans Council's Memorial Day observance at the Town Common in 2017.

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By Maya Jarrell
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 25, 2018

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Memorial Day, and the veterans planning Pitt County’s observance said they have been working hard to make this year special.

The main event is a ceremony that will take place at 11 a.m. on Monday at the Town Common. The event is sponsored by the Pitt County Veterans Council, which is a partnership among all the veterans organizations in the county.

The event is open to the public and will include a number of guests and speakers, including a wreath laying by the ladies auxiliary of the Disabled American Veterans, speeches from Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly and state Rep. Greg Murphy, the presentation of flags by local Girl Scouts and more.

“The fact that this is the 150th anniversary, I think it is important to keep the tradition alive to explain the initial intent on what Memorial Day was created for, and to hopefully have subsequent generations continue that tradition,” Scott Barker, the Veteran Council’s master of ceremonies said. “That’s my hope, to keep the tradition alive, and remind everybody what the day is all about. It’s not the start of summer, and barbecue day, but it was initially set up to pay tribute and memory of those who died fighting for this country.”

Among several veteran groups that will be taking part in the ceremony at the Town Common is the American Legion.

“We’re the world’s largest veterans organization,” Pitt County Commander Lee Allen said. “Our membership is composed of active duty veterans who served during war time, and I could think of nothing better for us to do than to honor those veterans who gave their lives to our country.”

Allen shares sentiments with Barker about the importance of Memorial Day, and similar holidays, to honor and remember the people who have fought for America.

“It’s a holiday that should be a solemn, somber time of remembrance of the sacrifices of many millions of Americans, both those who gave their lives and their families,” Allen said. “To me it’s critical that we take advantage of that opportunity and that we teach our children, our youth, about the importance of remembering those sacrifices, because without them we wouldn’t have our freedom.”

Both Barker and Allen encourage anyone who wants to pay homage to the veterans who sacrificed their lives to come out to the Town Common Monday morning, especially young people.

“I’m a veteran, I served in the combat zone, and I’m fortunate to have survived and made it back. However, a lot of our colleagues, and people who participated in conflicts before us weren’t so lucky,” Barker said. “I’m glad we’re having a bunch of Girl Scouts there, because I think it’s important to get the younger generation to not let Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, other events like that [disappear]. I think it’s important that we keep that message alive, and the more young people we have there, the better chance we have of keeping it alive.”

In addition to informing younger generations about the significance of the sacrifices of those before them, Barker and Allen also hope that this event will remind people of the original intention of Memorial Day.

“It’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of the holiday,” Allen said. “People view it sometimes as nothing more than the beginning of summer, and it’s not. Without Memorial Day, without the Fourth of July, without Veteran’s Day, and without the events that gave rise to those holidays, our country wouldn’t exist and it wouldn’t continue to exist. I think it’s critical that we take a little while on that day of cookouts, and ball games, and time with family — and those are wonderful things — to remember why we have them.”

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