Last updated: May 20. 2014 5:34PM - 1109 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Members of local veterans groups pay tribute to deceased service personnel during last year's Memorial Day program in Mount Airy.
Members of local veterans groups pay tribute to deceased service personnel during last year's Memorial Day program in Mount Airy.
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A local Air Force retiree picked to deliver the keynote address for Mount Airy’s annual Memorial Day program Monday plans to speak from the heart.

“It will be titled ‘hometown heroes,’” Monroe Donathan said Tuesday regarding the theme of his remarks during the event that will pay tribute to U.S. military personnel who have died while defending the nation.

The public also is invited to come out and show its respect at the program scheduled to begin at 10 a..m. Monday at the Mount Airy War Memorial on the corner of South Main and Rockford streets.

“Memorial Day, to me it means a day when we all should pause for a moment and think about all those who have gone before, from George Washington to now,” added Donathan. He was in the U.S. Air Force from October 1953 to December 1973 with the Intelligence Command, achieving the rank of technical sergeant.

His service was spent overseas in such venues as Japan, West Pakistan, the Caribbean, England and Scotland. “We traveled all over the Far East,” Donathan said.

But his address on Memorial Day will focus on the service of others. In addition to military members who have made the supreme sacrifice, Donathan’s remarks will highlight still-living veterans who have suffered greatly nonetheless. They include retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Hatcher of Mount Airy, who spent nearly seven years as a POW in Hanoi after his plane was downed in 1966.

Mention also will be made of J.B. Kerns of Ararat, Va., a former corporal in the U.S. Marines who lost both legs and one arm from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011 during his third tour of duty.

Donathan said he will recall the service of “my good friend” the late Norman Webb as well, who was part of the D-Day invasion, and died in 2011.

“Ours is a noble nation, a great nation,” Donathan continued, “and those in uniform have enabled us to maintain that status.”

Mayor Deborah Cochran will have a role in Monday’s program, including calling the gathering to order and reading a city government proclamation in recognition of the special day.

“A veteran is the most-identifiable symbol of sacrificial love,” the mayor commented Tuesday. “They give up dreams and some give their lives in defense of our country. It is painful thinking about those who didn’t return home. They are more than a name on the wall, as that Statler Brothers song goes.”

Cochran said it is appropriate to have Donathan as speaker, pointing out that he “never misses a veterans ceremony” locally. “He will captivate the audience with this stories.”

Monday’s program also will include, in order:

• The presentation of colors by the Mount Airy Honor Guard.

• A singing of the national anthem by Elizabeth Martin.

• The posting of colors by the Honor Guard.

• An invocation by Chaplain Dennis Barnette of the Mount Airy Fire Department.

• The reading of the proclamation by Cochran.

• The keynote address by Donathan.

• The placement of a wreath at the memorial to Surry County’s war dead, by the Honor Guard, mayor and Donathan.

• The singing of “God Bless America” by Martin.

• A rifle volley salute by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Honor Guard units from the Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain VFW posts, just before the playing of “Taps” by those units.

• The withdrawal of colors by the Mount Airy Honor Guard.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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