For Clifford Holt, Memorial Day isn’t only about honoring the fallen of our nation’s wars, it’s about never forgetting the sacrifices made to keep us free.
Holt read aloud the names of Bulloch County residents who died in the Korean War during Monday’s annual Memorial Day Observance at the Averitt Center for the Arts.
“Some call Korea the ‘forgotten war,’” Holt said. “But we can never allow that to happen. Those soldiers in Korea or any war who gave their lives for us must never be forgotten.”
The hundreds who filled the Emma Kelly Theater to near capacity enjoyed a 90-minute program that began with patriotic music played beautifully by Dr. Michael Braz and ended with everyone singing “God Bless America.”
In his opening prayer, Chaplain Charlie Williams with American Legion Post 90 also reminded the audience to never forget.
“Please Lord, let us always honor the memory of those brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Williams prayed. “You have always blessed our country in many ways and we promise to always be worth fighting for.”
Beginning with World War I, Janie Staggs started the traditional intoning of the names of soldiers from Bulloch County who were killed in wars fought since World War I.
Before reading the names of residents killed in the Pacific Theater of World War II, retired Judge Joseph Neville, who served in WWII, spoke about the young men he knew growing up who didn’t return from the war.
“It was an honor to know them,” Nevellie said. “And I know they were honored to serve our nation.”
As he read the names of the Bulloch dead from the European theater, Burton Higgins, said: “Freedom isn’t free. We are reminded of that as we read these names.”
An emotional Joe Bill Brannon intoned the Vietnam War dead: “Let one of those memories that fills their hearts be of our service and acknowledgment this day that we honor them.”
Metter’s Flem Cliett, World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater, was the guest speaker. He discussed his experience fighting on Corregidor when American forces retook the tiny but strategic island in 1945.
“I was on the island for more than two weeks and people don’t believe me when I tell them we hardly saw any Japanese soldiers,” Cliett said. “They were hiding in tunnels and caves. I found out later, 3,500 Japanese died and most took their own lives.”
Cliett said his war experience has stayed with him for the 64 years since WWII ended.
“It’’s true – War is hell,” Cliett said. “But it was my honor to serve our country. It was an honor to serve with the brave soldiers I came to know. Those who didn’t come back with me I honer every day.”
When Cliett finished, Dan Foglio, vice commander of Legion Post 90, ended the program with a poem and then led a rousing version of “God Bless America.”