Red, white and blue decked the front lawn of the Ardmore Veterans Center Monday morning for its 36th annual Memorial Day observance ceremony.
Against a background of patriotic music played by the Ardmore Youth and Community Band, around 300 people gathered to honor those who have served in the United States military. The crowd was filled with the friends and family of those who served, as well as veterans themselves.
94-year-old WWII veteran Glenn Mitchell, who was in attendance at the ceremony, said he remembers his fallen comrades almost every day, but that Memorial Day is an important reminder to others of the sacrifices made by those in service.
“Freedom means a lot to me,” Mitchell said. “I think that what I know and went through should be repeated. People should remember it - if that’s not remembered, they’re gonna have the same thing again.”
As the ceremony began, the Patriot Guard Riders rolled up on their motorcycles, American flags waving behind them, and members of the community lined the pathway with flags in hand.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and a moment of silence for those missing in action, Carter County Veterans Council Chairman Rear Admiral Wesley Hull gestured to “The Fallen Soldier” display the council brought from the Ardmore Military Memorial Museum.
Inside the display was a set of boots, dog tags and a hat atop a bayonet. Below, a plaque read “all gave some, some gave all.”
“You never leave anyone behind,” Hull said. “We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication and to say thank you for their sacrifices.”
Following Hull’s opening comments, this year’s Gold Star Mothers, Marjorie Armstrong and Angelia Phillips, who lost their sons or daughters in service, were honored.
Sergeant First Class Garland Morgan then addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of “remembering those who stepped up to plate and said ‘This, I will defend’.”
Morgan recalled the first time he came to Ardmore in 1962 as a young soldier and said he was amazed by the amount of participation from the community in July 4 celebrations. However, Morgan said he believes patriotism is gradually losing its appeal and should be further instilled in the younger generations once more.
“Important things or ways of life should never be forgotten, but remembered and passed down continuously to those that come after us to know who we are, what we stand for, and how to keep it,” Morgan said.
Prior to the conclusion of the ceremony, Ardmore Veterans Center Director Shawn Kirkland led what is expected to become a new tradition at the Ardmore Veterans Center Memorial Day observance ceremony. Kirkland read the names of those departed over this past year, including veterans from WWII, Vietnam and the Korean War.
Following the end of each name was the sound of a bell being rung.
“From the spectacle to the band to all the community, it’s wonderful to be able to honor those that gave their service,” Kirkland said.