SMITHFIELD – Over 150 people attended the annual Johnston County Veterans Council Memorial Day ceremony at 11:00AM Monday at the Johnston County Courthouse.
Citizens, local politicians and veterans gathered for the hour long ceremony to remember those who died in military service. A total of 1.2 million Americans have lost their lives in conflicts defending our freedom, including 248 from Johnston County since War War I.
US Marine Corps Retired Sgt. Major Devell “Bull” Durham Jr., a Gulf War Veteran, and past commander of American Legion Post 71 in Clayton gave the invocation. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Ken Stith, President of the Johnston County Veterans Council.
County Commissioner Chairman Ted Godwin, a Veteran of the US Army and Army National Guard welcomed those who were in attendance. He also presented a Proclamation from Johnston County Commissioners recognizing Memorial Day in Johnston County on May 27, 2019.
US Army Retired Command Sergeant Major Benny H. Dobbs Jr. was the guest speaker. Dobbs joined the Army in 1986 and served as a machine gunner, platoon sergeant, jump master instructor, drill sergeant, and recruiter before retiring after 30 years of service. The highly decorated soldier served in Panama, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan.
Sgt Major Dobbs and his wife, are now Johnston County residents, having moved here to be close to their daughter and grandchildren.
Dobbs said we all have a duty to teach others about sacrifice and on Memorial Day it was important to memorialize our fallen.
Dobbs said fallen soldiers were our patriots, warriors and friends, they came from big cities and small farms. All were heroes. “They paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom with their lives. We must never forget. It’s more than a name on a wall or a monument in a city park. Freedom is fragile. It’s worth defending and worth dying for. American blood has been shed on every continent.”
“Every life lost was significant. They are far more than just a number. Every day is Memorial Day for those who lost a loved one. Their lives changed forever,” he added.
Sgt Major Dobbs said when men and women enlist in the military it’s like signing a blank check made payable to the U.S.A. “It’s made payable with their life. We can’t ever forget the memory of those Veterans who fought and died for our country.”
Dobbs said 16 million men and women served the United States during War War II. Today, only 500,000 of those service members are still alive. He called them “our greatest generation.”
There are more than 80,000 service members still missing in action from prior conflicts. “You are not forgotten.”
“Remember the warrior does not choose the war or the cause. Send them off with pride. Welcome them home as heroes. Stop placing the wrong people on a pedestal in this country. The real heroes aren’t actors or those who play sports. Keep our priorities straight as a country. Reflect on our blessings and our blessings to be born into freedom.”
A special presentation was made to family of Johnston County war veteran Lance Corporal Harold Dayringer Jr. of Benson who died in an airplane crash in Hong Kong Harbor on August 24, 1965. His dog tags which were lost when he died in the crash were recently found and returned to three of his family members during the ceremony. Read the complete story of Lance Corporal Dayringer here.
The Memorial Day Ceremony concluded with a Wreath Laying Ceremony, a 21 gun salute by the American Legion Post 346 of Four Oaks Honor Guard Team, and the playing of TAPS by Reggie Parker from American Legion Post 346.