General: “Some things are worth dying for”
BOB SLOAN Editor
Paying homage to the brave men and women in uniform who never returned home from the battlefield, Brigadier Gen. Stephen B. Owens did not mince words during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Florence National Cemetery on May 27.
“Some things,” stated Owens, “are worth dying for.”
Owens, the director of joint staff for the S.C. National Guard, served as keynote speaker for the event, which was attended by several hundred people despite near 100-degree temperatures.
“We the living must never forget the personal courage and service to our nation,” the general continued. “We the living must not let their stories fall silent so that future generations will know of these treasured heroes, and may we live up to the standards set for by those who gave us freedom and opportunity.”
“We bow, we pause, we reflect on the price paid to create and sustain this great country we call America,” said Owens.
Owens said people have to fight for what they believe in, because not fighting would mean deserting those who need the greatest help.
“It will not be the words of our enemies we remember, “said Owens, citing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “ but the silence of our friends.”
Following opening remarks by U.S. Army Col. (R) Barringer Wingard Jr., committee chairperson for the Florence Veterans Park, Breanna Young of Wilson High School sang the national anthem. The Rev. G. Dane Morehead, chaplain of The Manor senior living community, offered the invocation.
A moment of silence was held in memory and honor of Jim Williams and Dave Phillips, two Pee Dee area veterans who died within the past year. Also recognized and remembered were Florence police Sgt. Terrance Carraway and Florence County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Farrah Turner, the two officers who died in the line of duty in October.
“Memorial Day is always special,” said Wingard.
Wingard recounted the first Memorial Day ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868, just three years following the Civil War. Then Sen. James Garfield of Oho offered the remarks at that ceremony. Garfield would later be elected President of the United States.
Wingard recounted the heroics of Army Pvt. Furman Smith of Six Mile during World War II. In 1944, whileserving as a private in the 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, during a battle near Lanuvio, Italy, his group came under intense German attack and began to withdraw. Smith voluntarily stayed behind with the wounded and protected them until he was overrun and killed. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor eight months later, on January 24, 1945.
Smith, aged 19 at his death, was buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Central, South Carolina.
The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and taps conducted by the Veterans Honor Guard and cannon fire by the Pee Dee Light Artillery and Palmetto Battalion Re-enactors.
Senator Hugh Leatherman also attended the ceremony. He presented the Florence Veterans Park Committee with a $10,000 check from the state of South Carolina to go towards the Florence Veterans Park Gold Star Families Monument.
The monument is the next memorial to be added to the Florence Veterans Park. It will honor the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Also part of the ceremony was a living history program involving 19th century re-enactors from the Pee Dee Light Artillery, the Palmetto Battalion, and the Third New Hamshire Company C, the Sons of Union Veterans Camp No. 10, Georgia's Charles Devans Jr. Department and the South Carolina Color Guard.
With more than12,000 graves at the 24-acre Florence National Cemetery, many families gathered amongst the graves to see their loved ones.