Approximately 1.2 million American’s have died in one military conflict or another. Monday, hundreds turned out to the Coffee County Courthouse to honor those who have fallen.
“Whether military or civilian, there is no greater price we can pay than those who gave their life for the country they love dearly. It’s why we are so great,” said Bill Swoape, a 27 year veteran of the US Air Force who received a commemorative case to stand guard over for six months that includes patches from each branch of the military, a purple heart, sword and a plaque honoring fallen soldiers. (Click here for video of Memorial Day ceremony)
“Since it wasn’t presented directly to me I willingly accepted to protect it,” added Swoape. “I’m really glad they came up with this.”
The presentation of the case was one of the highlights of the ceremony Monday, which included speeches from local leaders, bagpipes and wreaths placed near memorial monuments on the courthouse lawn.
US Army Master Sgt. Tim Brown, who presented the case to Swoape, led the second half of the ceremony.
“This country is free today for no other reason than our military and no one else,” Brown stated before presenting the case to Swoape. He added that the case will change guards in six months.
“I hope to pass this down for years,” he later added.
Also addressing the crowd were Eugene Warren from the American Legion, Tom Gerard with Veterans of Foreign Wars and Lamar Wilkie with the Disabled American Veterans.
“Too often we take our freedom for granted,” Gerard said to the crowd. “We take this day, as we should every day, to come together as an appreciative people … grateful for everything we have for it is much more than many other countries.”
Wilkie continued that sentiment.
“The saying that they gave all their tomorrows so we can have our today is never more true than on Memorial Day,” he said.
“More than 1.2 million Americans, men and women, have perished as a result of military conflict,” Wilkie added. “It’s because of their sacrifice we life in a society that even our most desperate enemies admire.”
Wilkie also advocated for women who serve in the military.
“We must prepare to care for men and women, he and she,” he said. “They have joined the ranks and defended our nation.”