Madison County residents welcomed nearly perfect weather for doing anything outside — especially honoring service men and women — during Memorial Day services held throughout the county Monday.
In Plain City, Ohio Air National Guard Airman 1C Joseph Sawo served as the keynote speaker. The National Guard, which is the successor of local militias, have had its members also give their lives in deployments and should be remembered right along with those who died while serving in the other branches of the armed forces, he said.
Sawo and his family fled civil war in Liberia and emigrated to the United States to seek a better life, as many had before them. He asked the crowd to not think of Memorial Day as just the “official” start to summer.
“This day is much more,” he said. “Let us pause to reflect upon the sacrifices of our fellow citizen-warriors who fell, their lives suddenly gone, their family members’ lives changed forever with the death of loved ones, the losses suffered by friends, neighbors and the extended community…
“Today, let us honor the memory of the men and women who gave all. Think of the principles that led them to lay down their lives. They are a beacon of hope that democracy, freedom, equality and lasting peace will prevail here in America and across our world.”
In attendance at the parade, the Headings family wore identical shirts, all emblazoned with “Old Glory” as they waited for the parade to pass. The six-member family dressed in identical shirts to honor Travis Headings’ grandfather, Howard Foust, Jr., who at age 88, had marched in the parade since 1947.
This year, however, he chose to ride with fellow veterans of foreign wars. He also served as the ceremony’s master of ceremonies.
After Foust introduced Rev. Charles Stenner, who delivered the invocation and later, the benediction, Stenner asked the large crowd to give itself a round of applause for having so many turn out.
A similar message about the “true” meaning of Memorial Day was broadcast in London on the square of the Madison County Courthouse. Speaker Rev. Preston Lowe served as the keynote speaker of the services, organized by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 93.
With the assistance of another veteran, the two men delivered an address about the origins of Memorial Day and recognized five veterans who had sacrificed in combat.
The London High School Marching Band performed patriotic tunes in addition to The National Anthem and Taps.
Toni Daniels, of London, brought her four young grandchildren to the services. She said after a “weekend of fun,” it was important to show her grandchildren the meaning of Memorial Day.
“They need to know it’s not just a three-day weekend,” Daniels said.
The children said their favorite part of the services is the gun salute.
“Do you remember what that’s in honor of?” Daniels asked.
“The men and women,” the four replied in unison.