Temperatures hit the 80s late on Memorial Day Monday morning at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hendersonville, but the heat didn’t deter hundreds of people who came to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
After the laying of wreaths to honor those who lost their lives in past wars, taps were played and only the sound of the horn and the blowing wind could be heard, as all participants stood silently in reverence.
“As Americans, we should all remember that freedom doesn’t come free,” said emcee R. Shuford Edmisten, owner of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, shortly after Taps ended. “It is only possible because of our fallen heroes who have paid a high price…a price paid that allows us to have ceremonies and celebrations like this in communities across this great country.”
Edmisten thanked the crowd for braving the heat as the ceremony drew to a close. Earlier in the event, he spoke about Memorial Day and what it should mean for everyone across the country.
“We are here together to honor the memory of our fallen warriors who gave their all for their country. Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades. Memorial Day is about gratitude and This is about honoring the men and women who made it possible for us to gather here today in peace,” he said.
Veterans of different wars participated in Monday’s event. Holding American flags along the road to the cemetery were members of the Hendersonville Chapter 14 DAV as well as Dan Palmer, who is the site coordinator for Wreaths Across America. Palmer said Memorial Day has held a special place in her heart since her father died in action during World War II.
“I lost my dad when I was two months old. He died in Okinawa,” Palmer said.
He planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and tried to join the military when he came of age, he said. But the government changed those plans.
“I enlisted in 1965. I was inducted at 9 a.m. That afternoon Congress passed the Only Surviving Sons Act and I was immediately removed from office. I n I had no choice,” he said.
As he looked through the crowd gathered there on Monday, he said it was nice to see people there paying their respects.
“It means some people remember…but not enough,” he said. “When my mother was pregnant, my father said, ‘None of my children will have to speak German or Japanese, except by choice.’ He went to Okinawa, saved 11 guys, pulled out some wounded… then a sniper caught him.
“I’m doing this for all veterans and those who will be. We’re doing this for Veterans Day. It’s not about us. It’s my way of saying thank you to those who have made us free Americans able to speak English.”
The West Henderson High JROTC held a flag folding ceremony at the start of the event, led by Lt. Col. Randy Lytle.
“It means a lot. I’m really impressed with students who go out on a non-school day, on a holiday, and volunteer their time,” Lytle said. “It’s not often during the year that we get the chance to honor veterans, so it really means a lot.”
Lytle served in the US Army and he said he was the first in his family to serve in the military.
“It’s great to see everyone come out today. I think Hendersonville as a whole is very veteran-friendly,” he said.