Crowd turns out for Armed Forces Day

Published 2:00 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

LINDEN – A ceremony marking Armed Forces Day was held Saturday adjacent to the Veterans Memorial in front of the Marengo County Courthouse.

Linden mayor Mitzi Gates welcomed those in attendance, and Brooks Barkley, the interim pastor at the First Baptist Church of Demopolis and a retired colonel and chaplain, provided the invocation.

The Demopolis Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) presented the colors as those on hand delivered the Pledge of Allegiance.

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Demopolis High School band director Matt Fields, who played trumpet as a student at the University of Alabama, played “Taps” in honor of those soldiers no longer with us.

VFW Post 5377 commander Billy Drake addressed the audience.

“This freedom that we enjoy has to be passed from generation to generation,” he said. “It comes at a price, and we should always be ready to honor those who made sacrifices.”

The ceremony’s emcee, Tom Boggs, talked about the Veterans Memorial, a pedestal which holds a replica of a folded American flag surrounded by bricks bearing the names of Marengo County veterans.

“Lee Belcher was one of the guiding forces in setting up this monument back in 2003,” he said. “We started in 2002, late, and thought it would be several years before we’d be able to build it. There was such tremendous enthusiasm that it was built and it was dedicated.”

Boggs is a retired colonel and a member of the American Legion Post XXX.

Those veterans on hand for the ceremony were recognized, and veterans from World War II and the Korean War were brought front and center for special recognition.

Keynote speaker Adm. Bryan Whit Compton (ret.) then addressed the audience. Compton was the wingman during the Vietnam War when current Arizona senator John McCain was shot down. He also was the first to command the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz, and was the recipient of the Navy Cross.

“We are here to honor those who have gone before us and sacrificed to give us the freedom and the liberty and enjoyment of life that we have enjoyed,” Compton said. “We also want to recognize the people in this community that even now are serving in the Near East to protect those same privileges and freedoms that we enjoy.”

Barkley then gave the benediction to close the ceremony.

“I was moved to see the World War II and Korean War veterans turn out,” said John Weaver, who served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans Post 31. “There are veterans who aren’t members of any of the organizations, and I would like to see them join them. If they all work together, they all have one cause.”

“A regular person who has never faced the service or had someone who went through the service don’t realize what they’ve gone through,” said Korean War veteran Rupert Brown. “When you’re out there and they’re shooting at you, you’re a live target for them.

“This ceremony was really nice. I think that they deserve every bit of it and then some.”