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Avery County Memorial Day Ceremony to be held May 29th on County Square in Newland to Remember and Honor Slain Veterans

Cindy Stonebraker Reed

By Tim Gardner

On Monday, May 29th, Avery County will hold its annual Memorial Day celebration between its veteran’s monument and gardens and the Fallen Officers, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Ten Commandments monuments on the County of Avery/Town of Newland Square in downtown Newland.  The ceremony will begin at 2:00 p.m. and honors Avery County natives or residents who perished while fighting for the United States of America in a military battle.

It is organized and conducted each year by the Newland Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary-Pat Ray Post 4286, Disabled American Veterans and the County of Avery.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.  The holiday was held on May 30th from 1868 to 1970. The holiday has since been observed every year on the last Monday of May.  It marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day (first Monday in September) marks its end. 

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service.  And they decorate graves and place an American flag on each grave—especially in national cemeteries.  

Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day – Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all United States military veterans.

The 2023 Avery County Memorial Day program will start with an invocation from Reverend Larry Dale Stamey, a United States Army veteran who served during the Vietnam Conflict. 

Posting of Colors will be conducted by the Avery High School JROTC, followed by the National Anthem sang by Tara Andrews, Avery High School Chorus teacher, and Stephanie Watson.

Other patriotic music will be supplied by Dee Raby and the Avery County Community Band.

The program’s opening remarks will be made by Retired United States Army Sergeant Kevin Holden, Newland VFW District 15 and Post 4286-Newland Commander and former Editor of the North Carolina Veterans of Foreign Wars Leader Magazine.  

The keynote speaker for the ceremony will be Cindy Stonebraker Reed, theFounding Director and Board Secretary for Mission: POW-MIA, (Prisoners of War/Missing In Action) a non-profit organization based in Virginia, that connects and serves the families of America’s POW/MIA’s and to help end the uncertainty faced by generations of America’s POW/MIA Families.

Reed is the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Stonebraker, who went missing-in-action from a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam on October 28th, 1968.

Reed also served as the Assistant Director of Programs for the Woody Williams Foundation, overseeing the building of Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in all 50 states.

Additionally, she is also a founding member of a Gold Star Families Services Coalition, which brought together other organizations that served Gold Star Families, and she sat on the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families, in Washington DC, and served as the Board Secretary and Kentucky State Coordinator.

She is married to retired United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Wesley Reed, an Avery County native.  They reside in Newland, and have four children and two grandchildren. Wesley and Cindy Stonebraker Reed are members of Banner Elk Presbyterian Church.

The Robert C. Wiseman Distinguished Patriot Service Award will be presented during the ceremony to an Avery County veteran for exceptional service to the Pat Ray VFW Post 4286 and Avery County veterans.

The Presentation of Wreaths honoring the county’ s departed comrades will be presented by Honor Guard Captain Bill Dean for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Marine Veteran Zeb White for Disabled American Veterans.

A Moment of Silence in Avery’s perished veterans’ memory and the ensuing Rifle Salute will be conducted by the Pat Ray Post 4286 Honor Guard, followed by “Echo Taps,” by two youth trumpeters, Ryan Clark and Drew Eggers. Clark and Eggers are also members of the Avery County Community Band. 

Reverend Stamey will then provide the Benediction ahead of the Retrieving of Colors by the Avery High JROTC to conclude the program.

Other state, regional and Avery County officials and dignitaries attending will also be recognized during the ceremony.

Avery County residents and any others desiring to attend the ceremony are invited and encouraged to do so.  All attending are asked to bring their own lawn chairs and umbrellas (in case of rain).  There will be no coronavirus (COVID-19) mandates in place at the ceremony, although anyone who chooses to do so is welcomed to wear a facial mask.