Liberty County residents observed Memorial Day on Monday in a variety of ways. While some opted to relax at home or enjoy traditional backyard cookouts, others took advantage of events around the area, such as the American Legion Post 168’s morning observance or Fort Morris State Historic Site’s commemoration, which featured Revolutionary War musket- and cannon-firing demonstrations.
American Legion Post 168 observance
A standing-room only crowd gathered behind the American Legion building on Highway 84 in Hinesville at 11 a.m. Monday for an outdoor ceremony that included music, inspirational words from special guests, recognition of veterans in attendance and refreshments.
After the 3rd ID Color Guard posted the colors, attendees sang the national anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Before introducing the guest speaker, retired Sgt. Major Adna R. Chaffee asked veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and more recent conflicts to raise their hands. The veterans were recognized with a round of applause before Chaffee also thanked local elected officials, lawmakers and military leaders for coming.
Brig. Gen. John Hort, 3rd ID commanding general-rear, began his remarks by acknowledging that many audience members likely had more typical Memorial Day plans in the works.
“A lot of us probably have plans in terms of social gatherings … but as I look at this day, it is truly a day in our national history that is about reflection and remembrance,” Hort said.
The brigadier general peppered his speech with historical facts and attributed the origin of Memorial Day to a group of Savannah-area women who, in the late 1860s, placed flowers on the graves of the fallen.
“Since May 5, 1868, this day has been a day of honoring those who have sacrificed,” he said.
Hort stressed the importance of keeping alive the memories of military members who gave their lives in defense of the nation and reminded the audience to tell the stories of those who have been lost. He paved the way by giving specific examples of fallen soldiers he served alongside and oversaw.
“Today, unlike any other national holiday, is time of reflection on the stories of the men and women who have fought and died for this country,” Hort said. “… The words and deeds of the soldiers’ lives remind us of the things we stand for.”
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46 Jr. Vice Commander P.J. Schneider, who attended the observance, said he saw the event as an opportunity to celebrate the memories of service members who didn’t make it out of battle.
“We’re just here to honor those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Spc. Michael Donaldson, of the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, and his wife, Kathryn Donaldson, tended to their 1-year-old daughter, Virginia, near the back of the crowd.
“It’s important to honor all the veterans who served and to know that this is why we have the freedoms we do,” said Spc. Donaldson, who has been in the Army for nine years — 2½ of which he has served at Fort Stewart.
Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, a former U.S. Army soldier and a Vietnam War veteran, said Memorial Day holds special meaning for him.
“I left a lot of good friends in Vietnam, and I particularly think of them on this day,” he said. “I think of all those who have fought and died in hostile situations.”
Fort Morris State Historic Site observance
Fort Morris’ Revolutionary War-themed Memorial Day event featured walking tours, Colonial-era games, food and, of course, musket- and cannon-firing demonstrations.
Volunteers Cierra Bass, 13, and Hosanna Boesche, 17, greeted visitors and offered refreshments from a table containing food reminiscent of the 18th century, such as herb-roasted chicken, cheese, bread, oranges and carrot-cake cookies.
Boesche, who has been donating her time to Fort Morris for 10 years, said she enjoys lending a hand at the site, especially on days of significance, such as Fourth of July and Memorial Day.
“It’s really important to remember everything that has been sacrificed personally for us. All through history, people have been dying for this country, and it’s important to remember them,” she said.
Visitor Celeste Collins said she and her family had always wanted to check out Fort Morris, and they saw Monday’s commemoration as a good opportunity to do so.
“We live on Colonels Island and have always wanted to see the firings and re-enactments. We chose today because Memorial Day is a celebration of the past,” she said.
Collins’ daughter, Drew, 4, couldn’t get to the demonstrations fast enough.
“Mom, let’s go see the cannon fire,” she said, tugging at her mother’s hand. “I want to go see the cannon fire.”
The site’s artillery crew fired two cannons and three muskets, explaining their actions to the crowd and pausing afterward to answer questions and allow visitors to examine the weapons.
Volunteer Dave Swinford, who heads the artillery crew, said certain parts of history — such as the Revolutionary War — tend to be forgotten as time goes on, so he’s happy to educate visitors and shine light on sacrifices made more than 230 years ago.
“We have to remember all the important things that went on in our history … the Revolutionary War has kind of become a distant memory, so it’s important to try to keep history alive a little bit, and we do that,” he said.
Swinford, who has been volunteering at Fort Morris for 20 years, would like to find more people willing to staff events like Monday’s observance, but help is getting harder to come by.
“The last six to eight years have been tough to recruit people to volunteer. A lot of volunteer support from the military has evaporated, probably because of their schedules,” he said. “Deployments have been so frequent and their home life so chaotic that they don’t really have time to come out and volunteer anymore.”