For the first time, Flowery Branch resident Marc Jones discovered the meaning of Memorial Day.
Though it derailed plans for other Memorial Day events in the area, the rain held off Monday afternoon long enough for Jones and others gathered at Memorial Park Cemetery to remember those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” serving their country.
Jones, a 37-year-old truck driver with a few days off of work, attended the service with his foster dad.
The service left Jones speechless and filled his mind with thoughts of what the fallen soldiers in the cemetery around him must have experienced, he said.
“If you’re never been in the military or never had no family in the military, you really don’t kind of understand it. So this puts it in perspective being here,” Jones said. “... It’s kind of sad that I get to be going on 38 and have never experienced it ... I just always took it as vacation ... not knowing that there’s a whole other side to it.”
In a service sponsored by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Memorial Park Funeral Home, the Georgia National Guard’s Brig. Gen. Lawrence Dudney Jr., a recently-returned veteran of the war in Afghanistan, did not speak of his time at war but of the sacrifice of those who did not return.
“This is the weekend that we remember those men and women, those brave souls that gave that last full measure of devotion,” Dudney said. “For them, it was a total commitment. They didn’t get to see football games, piano recitals, ballet recitals, junior-senior proms. They also missed graduation walks with proud children receiving their diplomas. Those moments never happened for them; they did not have the opportunity to gracefully age in loving relationships with their spouses. For them, it was a total commitment.”
Dudney said he hoped people would find time during the holiday weekend to pray and thank God for the people who gave their lives serving their country.
“America must be reminded (what sacrifice means), which is why we do this honorable thing today, in order to keep that flame of honor burning bright,” said Dudney. “... No one must forget the sacrifice of those who gave that last full measure of devotion.”
Monday was the fourth annual Memorial Day service held at the cemetery by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Steve Cronic recognized Charlie Company 1/121 48th Brigade and its company commander, Capt. Jeff Moran, which recently returned from Afghanistan.
Usually held in the veterans section of the cemetery, organizers moved the service inside to the cemetery chapel Monday afternoon to escape the threat of rain. It already had dampened plans for a parade in downtown Gainesville.
Tattered flags were burned and despite the weather, members of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard along with members of the U.S. Army marched for 24 hours, standing guard over the graves of veterans in the cemetery in 50-minute shifts.
“We hope that by doing this we in some way honor those men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy today,” Cronic said. “We know that freedom is not free. We’ve all heard that many times. Freedom is about service and sacrifice, and this is the day that we recognize service and sacrifice.”