Monday, 25 May 2020 13:51

Richmond County Memorial Day service kept small amid COVID-19 restrictions

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Johnny Patrick of American Legion Post 316 salutes as Cameron McDonald plays Taps during a Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park late Monday morning. Johnny Patrick of American Legion Post 316 salutes as Cameron McDonald plays Taps during a Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park late Monday morning. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — This year’s Memorial Day service was a little more solemn than most.

here were no speeches by elected officials. 

No ceremonial wreath-layings.

No hot dog lunch.

In fact, there almost was no service at all.

“If we had’ve done nothing, it would have been bad,” said Eddie Dean, commander of VFW Post 4203. “I would have felt bad all day.”

But there was a consensus that something should be done to honor those who “made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Dean met with Carlton Hawkins of American Legion Post 147 and Johnny Patrick of AMVETS Post 316 and they put a small ceremony together for Monday morning.

“We put this thing together in just 15 minutes talking on the phone,” Dean said.

The event wasn’t widely publicized due to current COVID-19 restrictions limiting mass gatherings to 25 people for outdoor events and 10 for indoors.

But there were still a few people who came of their own accord.

This was the 20th year Richmond County’s veteran organizations held a ceremony for those lost in battle.

Normally, the wreaths are placed in Veterans Memorial Park, across the road from the VFW, by representatives of the different organizations accompanied by cadets from Richmond Senior High School’s Army JROTC Raider Battalion.

This year, the wreaths were already in place before the ceremony began, with a brief introduction by Dean and opening prayer by David Williams, a member of both the AMVETS and American Legion posts.

Following that, Patrick raised the U.S. flag in the center of the park to the top before lowering it back to half-staff while the national anthem played.

That was followed by the playing of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and Taps performed by Cameron McDonald, who has performed the somber tune for the past six years at the county’s Memorial and Veterans day celebrations.

The short ceremony ended with a closing prayer by chaplain Charlie Tyler, who is a member of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The service was also attended by members of the local chapter of the Marine Corps League and VFW Post 4203 Auxiliary.

While there were no speeches, Dean expressed disappointment that there were no elected officials in attendance.

Dean also said he hopes restrictions will be lifted by November for the county's annual Veterans Day activities.