A larger-than-average number of people turned out for the annual Memorial Day Remembrance hosted by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 at the Emma Kelly Theater.
They heard keynote speaker Marvin Grimm who, as a Navy hospital corpsman, treated wounded Marines during the Vietnam War, talk about the flag, heroes and the meaning of an empty chair.
"From the Revolutionary War to today's world conflicts, fallen American heroes will never be forgotten," Grimm said.
He noted the empty chair on stage. It was a simple folding chair with a "POW-MIA" banner draped over the back, with the silhouette emblem representing prisoners of war and military service men and women missing in action.
"This symbolizes families and a grateful nation waiting for the return of tens of thousands who are still not accounted for," Grimm said. "We will always remember and never forget."
At Memorial Day, the American Legion also remembers veterans who did not die in combat, but later. Volunteers visit
36 Bulloch County cemeteries annually and place up to 2,300 flags at
veterans' gravesites, "giving respect and remembering their service," Grimm said.
'Ragged Old Flag'
As part of his tribute to the American flag, he read Johnny Cash's song "Ragged Old Flag." A visitor to a county courthouse square mentions the leaning flagpole and the condition of the flag to an old man on a park bench. Saying at first that he doesn't like to brag but is "kinda proud of that ragged old flag," the old man then recites how it received its tatters and burns, from crossing the Delaware River with George Washington to the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
"On second thought, I do like to brag, 'cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag," Grimm concluded, quoting Cash's lyric. Then he turned and saluted the flag on stage.
Grimm, now 70, is a double Purple Heart recipient for injuries sustained during combat in Vietnam and was also awarded the Navy Achievement Medal. Introducing Grimm as "a true American hero," Dan Foglio, American Legion Post 90 senior vice commander while Grimm is junior vice commander, read the citation that accompanied the achievement medal.
Grimm, while a hospital corpsman third-class serving with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division in eight major combat operations between July 4, 1968, and July 3, 1969, "repeatedly distinguished himself by his courage and composure under fire," administering first aid to casualties, the citation states. In particular, on Oct. 19, 1968, "although seriously wounded, he ignored his own painful injuries and attended to the other combat casualties."
Into the balcony
Monday's crowd included about 35 people seated in the balcony, while a majority of ground-floor seats were occupied, Foglio noted after the service. He has organized the remembrance programs for a dozen years and said 2017's turnout was larger than many. Jamie Grady, the Averitt Center for the Arts' new executive director, estimated the crowd at almost 300 people.
Retired Navy Commander Clifford L. Holt served as master of ceremonies, American Legion Post 90 Commander Charles "Skip" Campbell gave the welcome, and post Chaplain J.D. Turner led prayers.
Intoning and Taps
The intoning of names of Bulloch County residents who died in wars is a traditional, solemn aspect. U.S. Army veteran and Statesboro Kiwanis Club President J.D. Dunn intoned the names of World War I dead, beginning with Dexter Allen, for whom Post 90 is named. Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown, who is an Air Force veteran, and recently arrived Statesboro police Chief Mike Broadhead, who once served in the Army Military Police, did the honors for World War II, dividing up the longest list of fallen warriors by the European and Pacific theaters of service.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael Trevino, in uniform, read the Korean War names. State Sen. Jack Hill, a retired Georgia Air National Guard unit commander and state inspector-general, intoned the Vietnam War names. Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Bob Babot read the names of those who died in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that he had served with some of them.
Bulloch County Probate Court Judge Lorna DeLoach and Air Force veteran Larry Jones recited poems. Barbara Thames, who served in the Army, and Post 90 Adjutant Bob Marsh, who served in the Navy, recited other Memorial Day tributes.
Knights of Columbus members in ceremonial regalia posted the flag.
Jack Kindig and His Music Messengers performed before the ceremony. Dr. Floyd Soriano sang the National Anthem and later led the audience in "God Bless America." His son, Enrico Soriano, 15, a Southeast Bulloch High School rising sophomore, played Taps on trumpet to conclude the observance.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.