YORK, SC (WJZY) - A 21-gun salute, “Taps” and flag raising ceremony are common ways to honor American lives lost in battle.
On Sunday, veterans and families gathered in York for such gestures ahead of Memorial Day to honor those fallen heroes who give this holiday weekend significance.
"We've all heard that freedom is not free. It would be heartless and uncaring to fail to honor such sacrifice,” said John Wentling, Chaplain of the USMC League.
The York County Veterans Advisory Council hosted the remembrance ceremony on Sunday at Lakeview Memory Gardens Cemetery.
The guest speaker was decorated war veteran Dr. Perry Hopkins. Among his awards are: one Distinguished Services Cross, seven Browns Stars, 39 Air Medals, and three Purple Hearts.
"We're the only civilization, the only country that has an all-volunteer military force and we do it without fear,” said Hopkins during his speech. “That is something that no other nation experiences on the face of this earth."
Hopkins continued on to speak about the alarming rate at which veterans are passing away. "They're dying at the rate of 390 per day. 83% of them are men who served in Vietnam."
Many gold-star families (those who lost a loved one in war) came to the ceremony. Robyn Dudley lost her son Thomas in 2011 when he was killed in action fighting in Afghanistan.
"He left three children behind,” said Dudley, holding back tears. “I was very proud of him. He was doing exactly what he loved. He served his country proud.” Thomas was on his sixth deployment. For his mom, each Memorial Day is still just as emotional as the last.
“Five years is not enough time to heal all wounds,” she said. “I think that’s the way it is for a lot of families.”
The ceremony in York concluded with a 21-gun salute and taps.
"What we do here today is an indication of how the American people believe in our soldiers and sailors and Marine Corps,” said Hopkins. “As Americans, only you and I, and our children after us, will keep us free."