Memorial Day Observed in Houston County

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  Amidst the three-day weekends and plans for barbecues and sleeping in, this Monday, May 29 is Memorial Day. Much like other holidays, it is always important to keep in mind the ‘reason for the season.’

Downtown Crockett was festooned with American flags lining each side of the square to mark the occasion, to remember those who gave their lives for the rest of us, for generations yet to come and for that idea that freedom is never free. 

Judge Clyde Black, recently-retired Justice of the Peace and Vietnam war veteran has spoken often about “survivor’s guilt,” something which affects many veterans who survived their service and came back to the lives they were called away from. As they old saying goes, “All gave some, some gave all,” and many who have not faced such situations may never understand why someone might feel bad about coming home. 

War is not just terrible, but terribly random. A shell explodes, one man is gone while the man next to him is unaffected. A sniper takes aim at your best friend, while you, only a few feet to the left, are able to duck for cover. An instinct tells you to move – which makes all the difference – while someone else wasn’t in touch with their instinct that day and didn’t make it back. Those memories don’t fade, as names and faces both visit and haunt many veterans years after the guns have faded. 

Originally known as Decoration Day after the Civil War, Memorial Day only became a national holiday in 1971. It is traditional to visit cemeteries and lay wreaths and flowers. There are few American families that cannot point to one historic conflict or another and find a relative who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

While the festivities celebrated on any long weekend are always important, the memory of those young men and women is what should not be forgotten. Many of them were too young to vote, understand fully the conflict they were assigned to or even be able to find some of the places on a map. We can disagree about which wars were “good” or “bad,” but most of those young people didn’t get a voice or a vote, and went gladly when their country called. 

The fear of rocking in that ‘Durham’ boat on D-Day waiting for the ramp to lower to take on that little thing called the German army, the terror of moving through a jungle at night in Vietnam and hearing something rustle in the brush – or the prayers mumbled at every turn on a road in the Middle East, hoping there are no explosives placed somewhere along the route. 

God bless the memories of those who gave their lives. The lines of white crosses, each representing a life full of plans and dreams, never to be fulfilled. In an instant, a son, father, brother, neighbor, best buddy – no more. Taking a minute to think about them, even if we could never remember all their names, is to give them life again and remind them we know their sacrifice was not in vain. 

The Messenger would like to also take this opportunity to note the recent passing of one of the few remaining World War Two veterans in our area. Mr. Willard Wayne Stallings of Jacksonville gave a video interview to The Messenger for our Veteran’s Day video last November and told about his experiences in Japan. He became emotional when talking about some of his friends who did not come home, still recalling names and faces as though they had only left him the day before. A true hero, one of the greatest generation, the likes of which we may never see again. 

Stallings was 96 when he passed away April 30. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected] 

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