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Crowd honors U.S. heroes
Memorial Day celebration features food, music and remembrance
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Members of American Legion Post 168, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 789 and guests work on lowering an American Flag after the ceremony held Monday morning. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier


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A large American Flag, roughly two-stories tall, gently waved in the breeze. Veterans and soldiers, many dressed in uniforms pressed to perfection, walked with family members and friends under the majestic flag as they made their way into the Fred L Ginter American Legion Post 168 in Hinesville for the annual Memorial Day Celebration honoring their fallen brethren.
They mingled, talked and shared moments of joy mixed with periods of tears as they recalled the days when many of them stood on the frontlines. The bagpipes and trumpet, played by Tom Hickey, could be heard softly in the background on a quiet, cloudless blue-sky morning.
Behind the stage, another flag flew at half-mast, a reminder to attendees of why they were present. Dignitaries, civilians and military families made their way to their seats as Legion Post Commander Leonard Dillon welcomed everyone, and Post Chaplain Richard Russell offered the invocation prayer.
The Honor Guard of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 789 of Hinesville posted colors, and Ms. Judy Forshee began the ceremony with a heartwarming rendition of the National Anthem.
"It's a beautiful day," VVA Chapter 789 President Butch Hemingway said as he proudly walked through the crowd in his Honor Guard uniform. "It's great to see everyone here."
Third ID Garrison Commander Colonel Todd A. Buchs stepped up to address the crowd. He spoke of the 4000 Americans who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq for our freedom. He talked about the Iraqi army and government stepping toward independence. Because of Iraq's action, Buchs said, the frequency of insurgent attacks against American and Iraqi forces has declined. He indicated the progress being made in Iraq is apparent as several branches of the military have returned home and no replacement units have been necessary.
But most of all, Buchs reminded the gathered crowd that freedom has a hefty price. The men and women who put their country and service above all else have paid that price.
On a day many people equate with cook-outs and trips to the beach, Buchs reminded everyone that soldiers - whether scarred from a battle on the Beaches of Normandy, or struggling through the thick swamps of Vietnam, the deserts of the Gulf War, the treacherous, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan or the battle in Iraq - those who fought and died or fought and survived to tell the tale, should never be forgotten.
Forshee led the audience in a tearful round of "God Bless America," followed by a moment of silence while Hickey played Taps. The Sergeant-at-Arms returned the flag to full staff and soldiers stood at present arms.
Most of the crowd went inside to enjoy a buffet, but not those in uniforms. Not those proudly wearing hats and medals. They had one more honorable task to tend to as they lowered the large American flag. Not a stitch of Old Glory touched the earth and, in their own way, they again honored their country and those who died for it, unbeknownst to the rest of the crowd.
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