On May 29, 2017, the Walk of Heroes Annual Memorial Day Program took place to celebrate the federal holiday. At the Veterans War Memorial in Conyers, GA, the event was in remembrance of the soldiers who fought to protect our free country.
Tommy Clack, the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Walk of Heroes, opened the event. He thanked the audience for attending the event and also introduced some of the speakers, including Senator Tonya Anderson, a representative of Sheriff Leavitt’s Office, and Rockdale County Commission Chairman Oz Nesbitt.
The Rockdale Fire Department Color Guard conducted The Presentation of Colors, an American flag ceremony. James Bledsoe, President of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans/Legacy Veterans Motorcycle Club, delivered the Pledge of Allegiance, a Conyers Art Conservatory student sang the National Anthem, and Pastor Dave Benson of Conyers First United Methodist Church gave the invocation as well as the benediction at end of the program.
The opening speaker was Rockdale County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt. He thanked Walk of Heroes and the guests for their generous contributions to our community.
Another highlighted speaker was a representative for the Sheriff’s office who was a Army Ranger and Combat Medic for 29 years. He spoke about the history of Memorial Day and how it started as a day to remember those who died in the Civil War. He then gave a patriotic speech on the reason we celebrate Memorial Day, which is to honor the sacrifice of those lost in service to their country.
The keynote speaker was Senator Tonya Anderson (D – Lithonia). Anderson, an Air Force retiree. Senator Anderson gave an inspirational speech to commemorate the contributions of fallen soldiers over the last 149 years. Anderson recalled upon her own experiences in the Air Force, stating that our freedom is further secured by soldiers who have lost their lives protecting the United States. Tommy Clack presented Anderson with a plaque awarding her for her continued support of Walk of Heroes and the Veterans committee.
The Medley of Service Songs is a medley to represent the military branches – Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Tommy Clack said, “We recognize these five branches, but I recognize the contributions by the sixth branch, the families on the home front.” Clack also brought to attention the last person that lost their life in service to our nation, 22-year-old Etienne Murphy. Clack called Etienne Murphy to attention to tell the audience to stay informed on the lives the young men and women that lose their lives daily in combat.
For the first time this year, Walk of Heroes performed a wreath laying ceremony. Similar to the ritual presented at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, the event uses wreaths to represent that life is beautiful but also short. Sponsored by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), the Newton County Civil Air Patrol presented and laid the wreaths for Baron Dekalb of Decatur, Col. John McIntosh of Conyers, Henry Walton of Madison, John Clarke of Social CIrcle, Sergeant Newton of Covington, and Willing McIntosh of Jackson. Follow the wreath laying ceremony, Wolson Gustama, the director of bands at Dutchtown High School, played “Taps”, the bugle call played at military funerals.
Michael P. Howington, the Public Affairs Officer of the Newton County Composite Squadron, said, “The overall message of Walk of Heroes was to emphasize that Memorial Day is a remembrance, not a celebration of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who lost their lives in the line of duty to protect our freedom.”
For more information, visit www.walkofheroes.org.