Vietnam veteran Ransom Hobby said he couldn’t explain, without crying, what the Memorial Day service in Anniston meant to him. While he struggled to articulate how he felt about the event, his father-in-law, Ret. Army Lt. Col. George E. Guerieri, who is a veteran of three wars, said why the two men attended the service.
“We just come to be with all the other veterans because we appreciate what it all stands for,” Guerieri said.
People gathered today for the midday ceremony inside the the black granite walls at Centennial Memorial Park, which honors Alabama’s war dead. The event included speeches, a 21-gun salute and more than a half-dozen patriotic songs, performed live.
The keynote speaker, Ret. Rear Admiral Clyde Marsh, received applause during his address to the crowd.
“We are celebrating the heroic deeds and actions of those who gave their all so we can all be in a free and democratic society,” Marsh said. “Today is about remembrance and reflection.”
Veterans from almost every war since World War II attended the event, many of them in bikers vests and baseball caps with phrases like “All Gave Some.” Other veterans, frail from age and injury, attended the event with their spouses, using walkers and wheelchairs to find a place in the crowd.
“It hurt. It still hurts,” Vietnam veteran Bobby George said of the painful memories the event evoked. “It makes me just want to break down and cry.”
George, 73, is a Talledega native and has received recognition, and the purple heart, for drawing enemy fire to himself to save others. He said the today's event in Anniston was the first Memorial Day service he has attended since he returned home from war in 1971 at age 20.
While the crowd included several veterans, some young children and families also attended the event. In one row a woman stood by as her school-aged son with blond hair stood in shorts and a neon green shirt with his right hand over his heart during a rendition of “God Bless America.”
After the ceremony that mother, Carla Hollingsworth, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, explained why she thought it was important for her family to attend the Memorial Day Ceremony.
“We’re grilling and we’re going to play in the pool, but I think it’s very important for them to understand why we get to do these things,” Hollingsworth said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.