In an especially emotional Memorial Day Celebration, participants recalled fond memories of the late Dr. Kemp Mabry, a well-known veteran and historian who always had an active role in Statesboro's and Bulloch County's Memorial Day and Veteran's Day observations.
The program was held at the Emma Kelley Theater Monday at 11 a.m.
Mabry, who died earlier this year, was the key organizer for such events, said Dan Foglio, Junior Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 90.
Foglio said he was honored to step into Mabry's role.
"Kemp Mabry called me back in early December and asked - no, told - me I was to chair the Memorial Day program," he said. "I called to his attention that it was six months down the road. He said "Ah, it's never too early. I'll get back to you.'"
Mabry called him a month later and "proceeded to lay out the whole program, except the music," he said. "He said 'I'll get that next week.'"
Mabry was an amazing personality, he said. "What a man! He must have known or suspected something. I think back now, no matter where I visited him - whether at home or the hospital, he never wanted me to leave. He always said as I was leaving, "This conversation is not over! I say to you now, he may not be here in body, but he is here in spirit."
After patriotic music from the Outrageous Joy trio - Michelle Nesmith, Lisa Ponder and Nancy Barber -Foglio began the program. After his tribute to Mabry, he also honored fallen veterans of various wars.
"We come here today to remember and commemorate those from this area who gave the supreme sacrifice," he said. "We will never forget them - never!"
Before offering an opening prayer, American Legion Post 90 Chaplain Charlie Williams also honored Mabry.
"A good citizen, a good veteran, a good member of the community .. let us have a moment of silence for Kemp."
Program co-chairman Rodney Harville also recalled how Mabry worked on the program up until the day he died.
"It is amazing what that man could do," he said, recalling how Mabry was working with him and Burton Higgins on the day's events. "Dr. Kemp told Burt, 'Let's finish this Memorial outline. Then when it was done, he said 'let's work on Veteran's Day."
Mabry passed away that night, he said.
Afterward, local artist Elaine Chambers presented a painting to the American Legion Post 90 in Mabry's honor. She painted the piece - "Music of Freedom" especially for him, she said. "Dr. Kemp Mabry was a very bright light."
Bulloch County Commissioner Walter Gibson also presented a portrait of his uncle, Congressman John Gibson, to be displayed in the Memorial Room of the Bulloch County Courthouse. Congressman Gibson was the one to cast the deciding vote regarding the G. I. Bill or Rights, he said.
Afterwards, Janie Staggs intoned the names of local veterans who gave their lives during World War I. Burton Higgins intoned the names of those who list their lives during World War II - Pacific and European theaters. Joe Bill Brannon intoned the names of those local residents who gave their lives during the Korean War, and Clark Collins intoned the names of those lost during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dr. Byron Twigg of Bethel Baptist Church spoke during the ceremony, reciting the Gettysburg Address and pointing out how it relates to modern times.
He spoke of what it means to remember people who have made a mark on the world.
"When we remember people ... there are certain aspects of that person that come to mind," he said. " We also would like to know a little of that motivating force that led them to make that sacrifice."
Twigg pointed out that just saying words or making a small gesture is not truly enough tribute.
"We will never know all of those who died so we might have freedom," he said. " But we must .... never forget the cost of our freedom. What they did was no small thing.
"Honor, duty, courage and integrity usually help describe a fallen warrior, but if our remembrance is to come even close to respecting them, it must be on a level for giving them more than words.
Give them honor by doing, he said.
"Children, young people, youth of America, I strongly urge ... that you attend school," he said. "Study hard ... respect your instructors ... learn all you can about yourself, your country, the history of world affairs... that will prepare you to take your place as an adult in our society."
He also urged husbands to provide " a safe haven for your wives" and for parents to be examples their children can emulate.