More than 250 people attended a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at the Limestone County Event Center to honor deceased and active military personnel and listen to a two-star Army general explain the meaning of the holiday formerly known as Declaration Day.
The annual ceremony, which featured a roll call of 134 local veterans who have died since the previous Memorial Day, is sponsored by the Alabama Veterans Museum. The Limestone County Veterans Burial Detail presented the colors and fired a 21-gun salute, while several veterans organizations placed floral wreaths.
Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar, commanding general of U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, thanked a crowd filled with veterans from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Marine Corps for their service. He said their families also sacrificed while their loved ones were serving in the military.
The 1979 West Point graduate and Huntsville native said more than 1.3 million Americans have died during military conflicts, including more than half during the Civil War. Collyar was stationed in Germany for nine years, and he said that Memorial Day is celebrated by Europeans because of U.S. involvement in World War I and World War II.
“(Memorial Day) is not just a day celebrated in the U.S. but in every village in France near the German border and in cities across Luxembourg,” said Collyar, who was accompanied by his wife, Army Col. Sarah Green, a staff judge advocate for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Redstone, “I want to thank everyone for the courage they showed … today’s Army is the finest army that I believe the world has ever known.”
Vietnam veteran Gary Fox, 67, a Kentucky native who lives in Athens and is a retired Alabama state trooper, said Memorial Day is also recognized in Vietnam. Fox, who can read and speak Vietnamese, served as a Marine translator and interrogator with 3rd Force Recon during the nearly seven-month Battle of Khe Sanh, before being severely wounded by a 140mm artillery round on Feb. 11, 1968.
“I spent 354 days in a hospital, and doctors told me I would walk with a cane and never use my right arm again. But I turned my life over to the Lord, and said, ‘I can’t do this but (God) can.’ Five years later, I was on the road policing (Alabama highways),” said Fox, whose father was in the Army and his son served in the Marines. “I thought Gen. Collyar’s speech was a good one because his stories gave the meaning about Memorial Day. The Lord willing, my 17-year-old grandson is going to enlist in the Marines as soon as he graduates high school next year. Our family doesn’t know how to get along, so we fight (for our country).”
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