VALDOSTA — More than 1,500 American flags spread across Sunset Hill Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day observance.
American Legion Post 13 Cmdr. Steve Blanton said volunteers gathered to remember fallen military personnel by placing American flags, with nearly 1,600 gravesites.
“Memorial Day is a sacred day to all war veterans,” Blanton said. “I encourage you to drive through the cemetery and witness the number of flags for those who gave their lives and others who lived to enjoy the freedoms they fought for.”
Phil Youngblood, national executive committeeman and the American Legion Department of Georgia, presided over the program.
“It is our sacred duty to ensure that the names of our fallen and their memory are not lost in history. Events held on sacred ground like this will ensure that we will always remember,” Youngblood said.
“The cost of war is not only counted in lives lost but the hearts of those left behind – fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, all who bear the burden of going on without them. They live with the loss of their loved ones everyday. We can never thank you in a way that would make up for your loss.”
Ed Kent, American Legion Department of Georgia, presented the proclamation from Gov. Brian Kemp.
Remarks were given from state Sen. Russ Goodman, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter and Lowndes County Commissioner Demarcus Marshall.
Col. Russ “Bones” Cook, commander of the 23rd Wing, Moody Air Force Base, was the guest speaker. He shared a story of his friend and fellow airman, “Wiz,” who lost his life in dedication to the mission in Afghanistan, 2010.
“We remember and honor the men and women who have made the great sacrifice to defend this great nation. Steph and I have been in South Georgia for almost seven years and we are very thankful to be amongst Americans who choose to remember the sacrifice of those who fought for freedom.
“Our nation and many more are free because of brave men and women, like Wiz and his crew. There are no words to describe the pain of a parent who has lost a child, spouse who has lost their other half, child who has to grow up without their mother or father, or simply a friend. We remember the loved ones who unselfishly answer the call of duty and died so others can live free.”
Cook added, “Let this day serve as proof that we have not forgotten, our promise that we will never forget today and everyday.”
The ceremony closed with a moment of remembrance and the 21-gun salute performed by the C Company, 62nd GA Volunteers.