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Avery County Memorial Day Ceremony Held in Honor of Slain Veterans

By Tim Gardner

On Monday, May 28, Avery County held its annual Memorial Day celebration on the Newland Town Square between its veterans monument, Armed Forces flags displays and gardens and the Fallen Officers, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Ten Commandments monuments. The ceremony honored Avery County natives or residents who perished while fighting for our great nation in a military battle.

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

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers decorate graves and place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. It’s the ultimate desire that the courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service will never be forgotten. 

Memorial Day is not to 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 U.S. military veterans.

The Avery County ceremony is organized and conducted yearly by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary, Pat Ray Post 4286, in Newland.

The program began at 2:00 p.m. with an invocation from Reverend Larry Dale Stamey, a veteran of the US Army who served during the Vietnam Conflict.

Next was a Posting of Colors by the Avery High School JROTC, followed by the National Anthem sung by county resident Tara Andrews and Avery High School Chorus. Additional patriotic Music during the ceremony was supplied by Dee Raby and the Avery High School Band

The program’s opening remarks were made by Kevin Holden, Newland VFW Post Commander. The keynote speaker for the ceremony was United States Congressional Representative Virginia Foxx. And the guest speaker was John Millan, a local resident and retired United States Army veteran.

Foxx commented: “As we remember our fallen servicemen and women, our hearts are filled with deep gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice and will always admire them for their great courage and service to our country.”  

Millan echoed Foxx’s sentiments by stating, “There are no greater heroes than those who gave their lives in combat for our nation.”

The Presentation of Wreaths honoring the county’s departed comrades was conducted by: Colonel Sam Ray for Veterans of Foreign Wars; Commander David Burnop for Disabled American Veterans; and Nancy Morrison for the Crossnore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

The ensuing Rifle Salute was done by the Pat Ray Post 4286 Honor Guard, followed by “Taps.” Then Honor Guard Chaplain Fred Stout provided the Benediction ahead of the Retrieving of Colors by the Avery High JROTC to conclude the program.

The VFW Post 4286 Honor Guard includes: Honor Guard Commander- Bill Dean, US Army, Retired; Honor Guard Chaplain- Fred Stout, US Army; Lt. Colonel Bo Barinowski, US Army, Retired; Sergeant Major Danny Barnett , US Army, Retired; Chris Bertolini, US Marine Corps; Captain Eric Bechard, US Army, Retired; Robert Braswell, US Army and US Air Force; Keith Cashion, US Marine Corps; Will Christianson, US Marine Corps; Bob Church, US Navy; Troy Clark, US Army; Brook Dean, US Army; Larry DeSenville, US Army; Jesse Downing, US Army Retired; Dean Franklin, US Army, Retired; Captain Dean Harris, US Navy, Retired; Kevin Holden, US Army, Retired; Jim Love, US Marine Corps; John Millan, US Army, Retired and US Marine Corps; Oliver Nyberg, US Air Force; Jeff Pollard, US Army; Sergeant Major Anthony Pollygus, US Army, Retired; Harry Putnam, US Navy; and Jack Trivett, US Army. Honor Guard Emeritus Members include: Air Force Colonel Sam Ray, Ralph Holden, Wayne Holden, Bob Mason and Robert Wiseman.

The VFW leadership offered special thanks to all Veterans, VFW Members, The Post Auxiliary, Avery High JROTC, Band and Chorus, DAV, DAR, the Town of Newland, the County of Avery, Avery County Schools, Phillip Greene and WECR, the Avery Post, the Avery Journal-Times and all others who assisted in any sort with the Memorial Day ceremony.