Atlanta remembers the fallen in arms in ceremony and gesture

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[May 31, 2016]   ATLANTA - On Monday, May 30, 2016, the town of Atlanta held their annual Memorial Day Observance and Veteran's Recognition Ceremony thanking veterans and honoring those who sacrificed their lives for our country.

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 in 2005.

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 devotion."

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 respect.

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.

[Angela Reiners]

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