To begin the program, the Atlanta Band played a variety of
patriotic songs followed by the Atlanta Boy Scouts leading the
Pledge of Allegiance.
Bill Thomas then gave welcoming remarks recognizing those who served
in the armed forces of country who are still living and paying
tribute to the veterans who gave their lives in service to our
country. Thomas said, "We owe them a great debt. We owe them our
freedom, our liberty, and the preservation of our country."
To officially begin the ceremony, Paul Eckert gave an opening prayer
thanking God for "our comrades and our sisters who have laid down
their lives in the service of our country."
Eckert prayed that those who gave their lives would "rest in peace"
and the "good work of seeking justice for the oppressed and peace
for all mankind be rewarded with success that their sacrifices shall
not have been in vain."
Young Atlanta resident Grace Small then read the Gettysburg Address
to mark the special occasion.
The keynote address was given by veteran Robbie Bell, who entered
the service in September 1980. Bell served in the Navy, then the
Army, the National Guard, and finally, the Naval Reserves, retiring
Bell said, "Today is not about me. It's not about the Color Guard
guys you see in the Legion uniforms. It's not about the veterans you
see in the stands. This is about those who gave the last measure of
Bell said Memorial day is "to honor those who have fallen in battle
or as a result of wounds which they received in battle."
Bell said Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and
started after the Civil War when families decorated the graves of
both Union and Confederate Soldiers. Congress declared Memorial Day
a holiday in 1968.
Bell said, "Today is a day set aside to remember our service men and
women who paid the ultimate price." He said it is important to teach
children about the meaning of the day so they can show proper
Bell said those who take children on the walk of remembrance at the
cemetery should have the children look at the graves with the flags
and explain to them what the flags are about.
Bell had people call out names of those who died in combat or as a
result of their injuries and asked God to bless each of the fallen
and their families.
He closed by reading a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, a
woman who lost several children in the Civil War.
In the letter Lincoln said, "I have been shown in the files of the
War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts
that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the
field of battle."
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Lincoln said, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which
should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I
cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the
thanks of the Republic they died to save."
Lincoln closed the letter by saying, "I pray that our Heavenly Father may
assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory
of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so
costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
Following Bell's address, women of the Gresham-Crutchley Unit #341 Auxiliary
provided a floral tribute to veterans of all wars. As a tribute to each of the
wars was read, one of the auxiliary members placed a flower on a wreath.
Thomas next asked veterans of various wars to line up on the steps of the
Atlanta Public Library. Eighteen veterans represented the town, having fought in
Desert Storm, the Vietnam War, the Korean Conflict, and World War II.
Thomas said, "On behalf of everyone present, we wish to recognize your service
to our country and thank you."
Paul Eckert led everyone in the National Anthem, then a closing prayer thanking
God for the day's special blessings and consolation for those recently bereaved.
Men of the Gresham-Crutchley Unit #341 Honor Guard closed out the ceremony with
an honor guard salute followed by "Taps."
Other events of the day included a performance by dancers and cloggers from
Audra Turley's studio and lunch served at the firehouse by the American Legion.
After the performance, the fire department took two groups of children out to
the Atlanta Cemetery for a Walk of Remembrance. As the adults told them about
the meaning of the day, children placed flowers on graves around the cemetery.