The Memorial Day Ceremony at the Fort Smith National Cemetery honored the military men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice Sunday (May 26). The emotional event started with the presentation of colors by the VFW Post 8845 Color Guard and a call to order by Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.
The keynote speaker was Colonel Peter Gauger, Vice Wing Commander, with the 188th Fighter Wing.
Norman Breath, 62, is with the Arkansas Retired Military Association. Years ago, he fought in the Vietnam War.
“The heroes are under those headstones,” Breath said. “I’m not a hero, I just did what I was supposed to do.”
Breath said the ceremony keeps the memory alive of the soldiers who died for the freedom enjoyed today.
“A lot of us that served have lost friends in different combats and eventually when all of us go this is where we want to be,” Breath said.
Larry Craven visited the final resting place of his father-in-law James Baldwin with his wife Marty. He was a World War II veteran.
“We were able to have him for all of these years,” Craven said. “He died in 2007.”
Craven said their sacrifice should never be forgotten.
“Our gratitude for all the people who have died for their service to their country it’s just something that has to be remembered every year and all the time,” Craven said.
Roy Rich sat in the crowd during the event. The 96-year-old is a WWII veteran.
“It pays all the respect to the guys that run over there and give most of their lives or the bigger part of their lives,” Roy Rich said.
Rich fought in the South Pacific and took care of the wounded soldiers at the 59th station field hospital.
His son Michael Rich said, “He told us a lot of stories about the war when we were kids and it fascinated us.” “We’re very proud of him because he performed a valuable service.”
Vyrl Nelms visited her husband Billy’s grave. She said the Memorial Day tradition is important to the community.
“It is a great memorial to our husbands that have fallen, to our loved ones, to our friends and it’s one of the most beautiful serene places that you can visit here in Fort Smith,” Nelms said.
Fort Smith Director Craig LaChance said the U.S. flags will remain at each grave-site until Tuesday.