Veterans Park Memorial Day Program Update

Published 5:58 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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VALLEY — With a chance of rain in the forecast for Monday, an alternate plan has been made for the annual Memorial Day program in Veterans Park.

“We’d prefer to have it in Veterans Park,” said Post Commander Lanny Bledsoe, “We won’t make a decision on where to have it until Monday morning. If it looks like it’s going to be raining by 11 a.m. we will hold it indoors at Valley Community Center. If the rain holds off we will have it in Veterans Park as scheduled.”

Veterans Park is the appropriate place to have a Memorial Day program. It’s the location of four monuments that contain the names of young men from the local area who died in service to our country during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Former Valley Mayor Arnold Leak will be speaking at this year’s Memorial Day program. He’s a Vietnam veteran and a decorated helicopter pilot. He will be talking about his experiences in the war and some men he served with who didn’t make it back. He will also be talking about some men from the local area who served in the Vietnam War and were killed in action.

The names of those local men are listed on a memorial in Veterans Park.

“We usually have good crowds for our Memorial Day program and on Veterans’ Day,” Post Commander Bledsoe said. “We appreciate that, but a lot more people should be taking part in these events, not just here but nationwide.”

Post 67 was created just after World War II with WW II veterans playing key leadership roles. Korean War veterans got involved in the 1950s and participation remained strong. Bledsoe said he greatly admired those veterans and some of the older members of the Legion who had served in World War I. The WW I generation is long gone and very few WW II veterans are still living. June 6th of this year will mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. A soldier who came ashore on Omaha Beach that day at just 20 years of age would be 100 this year if they were still living.

The veterans of World Wars I and II and Korea were well treated on their returns home but not so with the Vietnam War veterans. Though the vast majority of them had served well, many were badly treated when they got back home to the U.S. By 1968, sentiment was turning against what many called a “no-win” war, and some civilians saw the soldiers as targets for verbal abuse even though they’d done nothing wrong.

The theme of this year’s Memorial Day program in Veterans’ Park will be on the Vietnam vet and the need to show them some long overdue respect for their service.

The local men who died in the Vietnam War include Larry O’Neal Adamson of Fairfax; Richard Louis Barnes of Five Points; Lewis Andrew Callaway, West Point; Willie James Foster, West Point; Billy Monroe Cross, Fairfax; John Calvin Halsey, West Point; Larry Edwin Hill, West Point; Wallace Sylvester Little, River View; William Dean Monroe, Langdale; Jerry Rudolph Moon, Lanett; Thomas Larry Senn, Lanett; Wilmer Simpkins, Fairfax; Roy Edward Thomas, LaFayette and Ray Delano Watts, Lanett.

Memorial Day is a holiday that is widely seen as the start of the summer season in the U.S. with Labor Day being seen as its conclusion.

It’s a fun day but is more than just a day for a cookout and being off work. The monuments in Veterans Park remind us that many young men from this area gave their lives for our freedom and our way of life. Being in Veterans Park and taking part in a Memorial Day program is a way to show some appreciation and respect for what they did for both our nation and our local community.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday honoring and mourning U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the armed forces. From 1868 until 1970 it was observed every year on May 30th. It’s now observed on the final Monday in May.