About 100 people gathered Monday at the Highland County Veterans Memorial in Hillsboro to honor members of the United States armed forces who gave their lives for their country.
The event, held in observance of Memorial Day, was hosted by the Hillsboro VFW Post 9094 and featured a variety of patriotic presentations, including a speech from retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ron Sampson, a Hillsboro High School graduate and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.
Sampson said to many citizens, Memorial Day is simply a three-day weekend to spend time with family and participate in summer activities, but to members of the armed forces and to their families, it is a time to reflect on war and its implications.
Sampson said the freedoms Americans enjoy were paid for with “sacrifice and blood” by members of the armed forces.
Sampson included a number of quotations from notable leaders, including Gen. George S. Patton, who said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
The retired colonel also spoke about visiting the site of the Battle of the Bulge on the conflict’s 40th anniversary, and how Belgian citizens showed their gratitude to American soldiers for their service. Sampson added that citizens of many other countries are similarly thankful for members of the U.S. military for intervening in conflicts.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings also addressed the crowd, reflecting on the horrors of war and how the portrayal of violence in film has changed over the years.
Hastings signed a proclamation declaring the observance of Memorial Day in Hillsboro, and Highland County Commissioner Terry Britton read aloud a proclamation from the board of commissioners declaring the holiday throughout the county.
Diane Coffee, Jenny Harner and the Hillsboro High School Band performed the U.S. National Anthem following an opening prayer by retired U.S. Army Maj. Mac McCray.
The band also performed armed service songs from each branch of the U.S. military.
Boy Scout Troop 171 led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and assisted members of the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard in presenting the 13 folds of the American Flag as Judy McCray explained their significance.
Honor Guard members symbolically lowered the flag to half-staff during the ceremony, then raised it again at noon.
Kevin Barreras of Chapter 123 of the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans Service Commission spoke about the military banners that have been placed in the uptown area and credited local volunteers and groups for their help in starting the program.
Ken Yochum explained the significance of a dining table set up at the memorial with a single chair by its side — a tribute to prisoners of war and those declared missing in action.
Coffee and Harner performed “Land that I love,” and the audience joined in for the last verse.
Terra Pfeifer spoke briefly about the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter and thanked those who have served in the armed forces.
After a three-volley rifle salute and a performance of “Taps,” by Honor Guard members, McCray delivered a benediction to close the program, and post Commander Rick Wilkin invited the public to the post for refreshments.
Other Memorial Day observances were held Monday in Lynchburg, Highland, Greenfield, Pricetown, Buford, Sinking Spring, Bainbridge, South Salem and Mowrystown.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.