Fayette remembers those who fell, those who returned
Hundreds of Fayette County residents took time to remember Monday during Memorial Day ceremonies in Peachtree City and Fayetteville.
The day began in Peachtree City as veterans laid a wreath at the Veterans Memorial in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands who have laid their lives down for the United States of America in the various wars and conflicts, ranging from the American Revolution against Britain to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Retired Air Force Major General George Harrison reminded the crowd of the veterans who were reported as prisoners of war or missing in action, as they too never returned home to continue living with their families.
In World War I, 3,300 soldiers remain unaccounted for, Harrison said. The number jumps to 78,000 for World War II, with 8,000 from Korea; 2,300 from southeast Asia and one from Iraq.
“The numbers who died in battle, in this century alone: 53,000 in World War I; 292,000 in World War II; 33,000 in Korea; 47,000 in southeast Asia and over 6,000 in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Harrison said. Add to that total some 192,000 non-battle deaths during those wars as well, he added.
“This incredible total of 620,000 Americans lost numbs the mind,” Harrison said. “It’s easy for us to lose ourselves in the large numbers and forget that each number represents a human being who once walked with us, who lived and loved with the same passion as you and I. And each of them was as precious to their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and their wives and children as our own lives are to our loved ones today.”
In exchange for those who gave that ultimate sacrifice, America’s freedom remains intact, Harrison said.
Fayetteville’s ceremony was set in the somber setting of the Fayetteville cemetery among some of the the county’s war dead interred there. Keynote speaker Terry Garlock explained why veterans are so often reticent to speak of the comrades they lost. Garlock, who served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, referred to the need in the field to put those emotions “deep inside a secret box.” That box, he said, was painful to open even these many, many years later.
‘Taps’ for fallen soldiers — A bugler from the Fayette County High School Marching Band plays the somber “Taps” to conclude Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony. Each year the ceremony is conducted in the Fayetteville city cemetery as a nod to several soldiers from various American conflicts and wars who are buried there. Photo/John Munford.
“We were cautious about opening our secret box to tell others about our dead brothers because the memories are wrapped in the same feelings we had when they died, just as fresh as yesterday, and we didn’t like that we couldn’t control the tears and overwhelming sadness,” Garlock said.
Garlock also said he wanted those who lost loved ones to know that they are remembered vividly and often.
“We think of them nearly every day, as if we’re keeping an unspoken pledge to each other — I will remember you,” Garlock said.
Garlock spoke of the healing power of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington and urged that the country make sure to build monuments to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars against terrorism as well.
“The wall in Washington is our place to ease the pressure, to let loose those feelings we suppressed for so long, where we can talk to our dead brothers to tell them they are not forgotten, that we are teaching our children and grandchildren about them,” Garlock said. “It’s a place where we can confess a tinge of guilt that we lived through it and they did not, that we got to live out our life and grow old and we’re sorry their faces are frozen forever young.”
The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan deserve their place to to remember, grieve and “cleanse their soul,” Garlock contended.