Among them was 84-year-old Ralph Akins, a veteran of World War II.
“I’ve been observing these since they started them,” Akins said of Memorial Day. “I’ve been around and it’s just important to honor those who passed on and remember what they’ve done for us.”
As a soldier, Akins served in Europe from 1943 to 1945 with the 627 Engineers Light Equipment Company.
“Were were road builders, bridge builders,” Akins said. “My organization is now down to nine. We used to meet every other year, but now we meet every year because there ain’t that many left.”
Akins’ fellow soldiers are not the only ones passing on. As part of the Griffin-Spalding County Memorial Day observance, flags are added each year to the impressive Avenue of Flags that lines the park.
Retired Col. David Otto dedicated the four flags added to the Avenue of Flags Monday. They were the flags of Edward M. Mitchell, Jack E. Ryan, Moses C. Sanders and Thomas Richard Brown.
“Most of the flags that get put out for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, somebody went to Wal-Mart and bought them,” Otto said. “But, folks, these flags were paid for, but they were paid for with the service of veterans. These flags you see were on the caskets of veterans who are deceased. Some of those veterans lost their lives in the service of this nation.”
A dedication was also held for 19 new bricks being added to the park. They will serve as lifetime mementos to the veterans for whom they are named.
From Boy Scout Troop 77 to soldiers currently serving in the armed forces, everybody was represented.
During his speech, Maj. Gen. Larry Ross recognized all of them and gave additional recognition to two groups.
“Instead of seeing a stone monument this special day, we see the faces of all those who, over the years, sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom. We see the brave faces of those men and women who died in Vietnam and Korea, whose sacrifices went unrecognized for years because of the unpopularity of the conflicts they found themselves in,” Ross said.
He also charged audience members to do their part.
“We do this by volunteering to help those veterans who are still with us, by helping those families who are grieving the loss of a family member, by visiting those injured in service to the nation and helping them build a new life,” Ross said. “Each of us must find ways to ensure the legacy of our heroes and doers in what has become a sound-bite culture. These dedicated men and women are worth more than that, more than a 20-second sound bite. Their history deserves telling and re-telling. Find a way in your life, at work, or home or church or youth group meeting, whatever, to keep their memories alive, honor their sacrifices, tell their stories, cherish their memories.”