Memorial Day

  • A veteran renders a saulte during the playing of “Taps” at the close of Memorial Day services at the Anderson County Courthouse on Monday, May 29. - Ken Leinart

  • Zach Farrar, USMC and vice president of Regions Bank, was the keynote speaker at the Anderson County Memorial Day ceremony. - Ken Leinart

  • Clinton City Councilwoman Wendy Maness sang the National Anthem at the Anderson County Memorial Day ceremony. - Ken Leinart

  • From left: Director of Anderson County Veterans Service Office Leon Jaquet, State Rep. John Ragan, Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, and Zack Farrar laid the wreath at the memorial for Anderson County’s fallen service members at the end of the Anderson County Memorial Day proceedings. - Ken Leinart

  • A wreath was placed at the memorial for Rocky Top area service men and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom at the close of the Rocky Top Memorial Day service. - Ken Leinart

  • Norris Councilman Bill Grieve salutes after placing a wreath in remembrance of servicemen and women who did not “come home,” during the Norris Memorial Day activities. - Ken Leinart

“This is the day we pay homage to those who did not come home,” said Leon Jaquet, veteran services officer for Anderson County.

“The price of freedom has been paid with their blood.”

He spoke at the Memorial Day service at the courthouse in Clinton.

Memorial Day was celebrated in Anderson County with speeches, color guards, taps, prayers, wreath-laying and rifle salutes at Clinton, Norris and Rocky Top.

The speakers at Clinton were Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank; state Rep. John D. Ragan, a retired Air Force fighter pilot; and Zach Farrar, who served as a captain in the Marines and is currently vice president of Regions Bank.

“We do remember, we do honor, and we proudly stand with those families left behind,” Frank said.

“Courage is not the absence of fear,” Ragan told the crowd. “Without fear, courage has no meaning,”

As the people gathered remembered courage, Ragan also asked them to remember love, quoting John 15:13 where Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Ragan urged the crowd to engage in the battle for freedom by fighting against domestic terrorists who would take away our freedoms.

Farrar spoke from the heart as he asked, “How do we honor Memorial Day?” He said the answer was to be active and prayerful and “be quick to serve, quick to give, quick to forgive and quick to reconcile.”

He urged the audience to be “a people God would look on and be proud of.”

Jaquet, who did double duty by speaking at Rocky Top, reminded the Rocky Top audience that Memorial Day honored military people who exemplified valor, honor and sacrifice. He urged them to remember the prisoners of war and missing in action and demand a full accounting for them.

Anderson County High School JROTC also did double duty presenting the Colors at both ceremonies.

As I reflected on both ceremonies I thought of a rock classic that will be remembered by those of us who grew up in the sixties (although it has been said that if you remember those turbulent times, you weren’t there).

The song said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose/Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free” No falser words were ever spoken. If you have freedom, you have a lot to lose and it definitely isn’t free. On Memorial Day we honor the high price of that freedom.

A much truer statement, attributed to either Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry among others is “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” As Jaquet remind his Rocky Top audience, freedom must be fought for and passed on to the next generation.

The true meaning of Memorial Day was personal to the man who came up as I was looking at the names on the stone in front of the courthouse. He pointed to a name from the Viet Nam War, “Bill Patterson,” and said that he and Patterson caught the same bus from Clinton to enlist. He came back and Patterson did not. The man left before I could get his name but I am sure he felt that, but for the grace of God, his name could have been engraved on the stone instead of Patterson’s. To him, Patterson was “more than just a name on a wall.”

From the perspective of an older person those honored this Memorial Day seemed so young. There is no telling what they could have accomplished if they had returned. But they paid the ultimate sacrifice so that others could have the freedom to strive for the very accomplishments they were denied.

In the South there was once a holiday called Decoration Day which is probably the forerunner of Memorial Day. Families would clean up cemeteries and place flowers on the graves of loves ones.

Those of us who grew up in the South have a sense of place, a sense of being tied to the land. Even if someone has never lived in a particular place, after coming back there every year and hearing the stories of family members who worked the land and were later buried underneath it, we feel a connection to that particular place. In much the same way Americans can feel a sense of place and feel tied to this country because of those who are honored on Memorial Day.

During my 20 years in the Navy and for a long time afterward I never heard anyone say, “Thank you for your service,” to me or anyone else. Now that phrase is heard all the time. With all that is wrong with this country I take that phrase as a sign of hope.

On Memorial Day and every other day remember the two entities willing to give their lives for you: Jesus Christ and the American soldier.