Active-duty and former soldiers — some of whom served in World War II — gathered Saturday with community members in Ludowici for the unveiling of the Long County Veterans Memorial Monument. The multiyear project came to fruition over the weekend when the three-slab marble tribute was placed in Friendship Park.
The center slab displays the names of service members who are missing in action, were prisoners of war or were killed in action. There also is a section bearing the names of warriors who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The third segment, labeled “Freedom Fighters,” lists the names of service members who served during peace time. Above the slabs, an American flag flies from a sliver pole.
“This is a wonderful day. It should have been done a long time ago. This memorial will serve as an inspiration for those who are serving now and for those who may serve in the future,” World War II veteran John Morgan said.
Long County Veterans Committee Chairman Marvin DeLoach welcomed the crowd and gave a brief history of the monument’s history, from the idea phase, to planning and construction stages, to the installation. The Rev. Tom Gardner gave an invocation and led everyone in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Local singer Sherry Long sang “Honor and Glory,” and committee member Gaynell Garrison introduced keynote speaker, Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.
Williams thanked the veterans who were present and expressed gratitude for those who served their nation but were unable to attend there ceremony. He urged veterans to take pride in their support and defense of the United States Constitution. The lawmaker heaped praise on former and current service members, but stopped short when it came to certain politicians and elected leaders.
“Not one single piece of our Constitution was ever altered by what any of you did during your service to this country but, unfortunately, that can’t be said for the legislatures, the judges and the politicians. … I’m not being partisan here, but this president picks and chooses which laws he wants to enforce, and that’s scary,” Williams said.
He said that Americans do have more rights than citizens of any other country in the world, but those rights are not guaranteed.
“The Constitution contains your freedoms and if you don’t protect it, you can lose these freedoms, and you can’t protect it if you don’t get out and vote,” Williams said.
After the senator finished, Long County High School bugler Paul Williams played “Taps” as attendees covered their hearts with their hands.
“I thought everything that was said here today was important, and I think the ceremony went great. It’s nice to see your fellow comrades who served with you. A lot of these guys, I didn’t even know they were in Vietnam,” said William “Bill” Siets Jr., who served two tours in Vietnam.
Korean War veteran Billy Morgan agreed with Siets.
“Today was very good. Hopefully, it will make other people realize what a great country we live in,” Morgan said.
DeLoach said veterans’ names still can be inscribed on the monument. Anyone interested in adding a name should notify a committee member and offer a $50 donation; however, the inscription is free for service members who died during wartime. DeLoach’s fellow committee members are Randy Wilson, Darrell Ballance, Kerry Hunt, Margie DeLoach, Cheryl Berry, Beverly Johnson, Scott and Barb Parker, and Wendell and Delores Mallard.