Mount Airy’s Memorial Day Service kept its focus on the personal Monday along with its traditional rifle volley salute and the placing of the wreath by the City Honor Guard.
Mayor Deborah Cochran read a proclamation which thanked participants for helping the city honor those “who loved country more than self.” Cochran said everyone is forever indebted to veterans for their sacrifice of love.
“Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and remembrance of how Americans have died defending its values,” said Cochran after the presentation of colors by City Honor Guard Members Kyle James, Brian Emlinger, Brad Harrell and Jody Seaver. “Defending its ideals have required sacrifice from every generation. Americans stand with the families who grieve.”
The featured speaker for the service was retired Technical Sgt. Monroe Donathan, who served in the United States Air Force Intelligence Command.
“We were trained to never start a speech with an apology or a joke, if you were already not good at telling one,” said Donathan. “We will proceed from there.” He talked about retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Hatcher, who who spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi after his plane was downed in 1966.
Donathan described Hatcher as “a quiet man who lives on Grace Street and has paid his dues.” He described how Hatcher took off from an air base in Thailand in 1966, was shot down and was taken prisoner. He told the audience how the Silver Star recipient had distinguished himself with gallantry under his captors who ignored international law to interrogate him.
“Ask Col. Hatcher how he did this and he’ll say he got the strength from Almighty God, our commander in the sky,” Donathan said. He next talked about the late Norman Webb.
He explained Webb was a part of the Fourth Division who landed at Utah Beach on D-Day in World War II.
“He was wounded several times but kept on fighting,” said Donathan. “This old country boy from West Virginia who was moved to the Cana (Virginia) area by his parents knew duty, honor and country and knew nothing about surrender.” He said Webb later returned to the area and held several jobs, including being one of those who helped build a scenic Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over U.S. 52.
Donathan said Webb eventually wound up being a truck driver for a Martinsville, Virginia, trucking company owned by Roy Stone.
“I believed Norman Webb learned a lot from Roy Stone,” Donathan said. “He later built his own company as a partner in H&W Trucking and he owned a leasing company for trailers for the trucks. He was a quiet, unassuming man. Always ready to pass credit on to someone else.”
Elizabeth Martin sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America” during the service. Donathan and Cochran assisted the City Honor Guard in the placing of the wreath. “Taps” was played by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Memorial Honor Guard, Mount Airy Post 2019 and VFW Memorial Honor Guard, Pilot Mountain Post 9436.
Notables in attendance included Representative Sarah Stevens, County Commissioner “Buck” Golding, Sheriff Graham Atkinson, Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Yokeley and City Commissioners Shirley Brinkley, Jim Armbrister and Dean Brown.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.