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Honor Guard marks Memorial Day at cemetery
Guardsmen marched in shifts for 24 hours
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mark Mason marches Monday as an honor guard in the veterans section at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Gainesville. The honor guard lasted 24 hours, ending at midnight Monday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Veterans and soldiers were honored Monday at the sixth annual Memorial Day celebration at Memorial Park Cemetery.

The event started Sunday at midnight with the posting of a member of an honor guard marching on a raised platform in the veterans section of Memorial Park Cemetery.

Hall County Sheriff’s Honor Guard was joined this year by the Gainesville Police Department Honor Guard and the Georgia Army National Guard State Honor Guard.

Honor guard members would march for a shift of 45 minutes during the dark hours and 30 minutes during the light hours. A formal changing of the guard took place between shifts. The marching went on for a 24-hour period until midnight Monday. The public was allowed to watch at any time.

Staff Sgt. David Williams, a member of the Georgia National Guard State Honor Guard and an instructor at NCO Academy in Camp Shelby, Miss., marched.

“It’s an honor and privilege to do so,” Williams said. “We do this to honor our fallen comrades. If we could do more, we would. This is the least we could do.”

Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, Hall County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said the practice is “... to emulate the marching at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington.”

Hall honor guard Assistant Commander Deputy Jonathan Jackson also marched.

“This is a vision Staff Sgt. (Bonner) Burton had six years ago to honor veterans on Memorial Day,” Jackson said, referring to the commander of the Hall honor guard. Jackson said the Memorial Day event is “... a visual way to honor the men and women who have served and currently serving.”

The Memorial Day commemoration continued Monday with a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. in the cemetery across from the post of the honor guard. This year’s speaker was Lt. Col. Bob O’Brien of the U.S. Army and commander of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion in Dahlonega.

“Pfc. Sean Adams is the guest of honor this year,” Wilbanks said.

While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan earlier this year, Adams was severely injured by an improvised explosive device. At the service, Sheriff Steve Cronic presented him with the Service Award on behalf of the sheriff’s office.

Immediately afterward, attendees got to see a changing of the guard. They also got a chance to meet Adams and share their gratitude for his service.

Small American flags were posted at the graves of veterans. The service and marching of the honor guard was a tribute to soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty.