By Tzar Wilkerson
Today the Boone Mall hosted a gathering of the High Country’s veteran community, government officials, police officers, firefighters, and grateful Americans for a ceremony of appreciation and remembrance. Federal, state and local officials were in attendance, including Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and members of the Watauga County Commissioner’s Office and Boone Town Council.
After the ceremony’s opening remarks by Captain Doug May and the posting of the colors by Watauga High School MCJROTC, guest speaker Chief Petty Officer Rick Cornejo made a visibly stirring speech about the purpose of Memorial Day.
“More than 1.1 million men and women have died through war alone throughout the span of our nation’s history. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC. It’s easy – human nature, in fact – to overlook the tremendous sacrifices made by our nation’s military. Understandably, we are a little consumed by the stress and rapid pace of everyday life – rarely do we have the time to focus on how or why we’re able to live as we do. As FDR once said, ‘Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men and women have died to win them’. Many Americans have no direct line to a veteran or military person, and fewer still (less than one percent of the population) are currently serving,” said Cornejo. “Each Memorial Day we have the chance to reconnect with the numerous freedoms that we enjoy and take for granted – like our barbecue. It’s an important day on which we ground ourselves in the reality that every gold-star family knows: our way of life is shaped and made possible by those who served and those who’re still serving.”
CPO Cornejo’s words put the ceremony’s intentions into perspective, and when it came time to celebrate the veterans present at the event, the applause was uproarious and heartfelt. Veterans from each of the nation’s wars and divisions of the military were celebrated respectively.
Cornejo also spoke about the history of the American Legion – which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year – and the many milestones and achievements that organization has contributed over course of the century. The Watuaga Community Band skillfully performed a variety of patriotic music and service music between the speeches.
After Captain Doug May and the Watuaga Community Band led the crowd in one final round of recognition for the veterans of each division of the military and first responders, Watauga High School MCJROTC retired the colors and the audience fell to silent contemplation as Taps was played and the ceremony came to a close.