Approximately 150 people attended a Memorial Day Service held Monday morning at the Johnston County Courthouse in Downtown Smithfield. The event was an effort of the Johnston County Veterans Council, comprised of the 9 American Legion Posts in the county, Vietnam Veterans of America of Johnston County, Marine Corps League Carry On Detachment, SeaBees of Johnston County, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) of Johnston County, and the 3 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts in Pine Level, Selma, and Smithfield.
Thomas Ingram, President of the Johnston County Veterans Council welcomed those who were in attendance of the services and also led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Devell Durham Jr., Commander of American Legion Post 71 in Clayton and a Gulf War Veteran – US Marine Corps Retired gave the invocation.
Tony Braswell, a Vietnam Veteran, and Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners presented a proclamation recently approved by the Board recognizing the 40th Anniversary of the Ending of the Vietnam War.
Retired Colonel Robert Boyette, Director of Johnston County Veterans Services and an Iraq War veteran, presented a history of Memorial Day.
Retired Colonel Rudy Baker, Chairman of the Johnston County Veterans Advisory Board and a Vietnam Veteran, introduced the guest speaker, retired Naval Commander David “Mike” Wegman, who served in the US Navy. One of his jobs was a technician on board a nuclear submarine. He is also a Senior Naval Science Instructor at Smithfield-Selma High School.
Col. Wegman began with Bible scripture from John 15:13 which says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
He said Memorial Day was a time to celebrate and honor friends, honor fallen heroes, and to thank the thousands of Americans who sacrificed for the benefit of others around the globe, many who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Wegman said it was important to reflect on those who died for their country and now silently rest in cemeteries, both in local and national gravesites. Buried in those places are heroes, their dreams and aspirations, cut short by their sacrifice. “Songs never written or sung. Children never conceived.”
He said it was important to remember Veterans not just on Memorial Day but every day for their honor, courage, and patriotism. Wegman said Veterans should be honored regardless of race, gender, pay grade or whether they carried or discharged a weapon.
In closing remarks, Col. Wegman said peace is fragile and that it requires constant vigilance. “To maintain peace we must stay strong.”
A wreath was then placed in front of a monument that lists the names of Johnston County residents who have died in war. The American Legion Post 109 Honor Guard Team then fired a 21 gun salute, which was followed by the playing of Taps by Ken Parker with the Marine Corps League Detachment 1236.
At the bottom of the program for the Memorial Day Service were these words: Today we pay tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes Heroes’ out of boys and girls-that inspires Americans of every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet.