ROCKFORD — The Rockford Preservation Society, Inc. presented its 27th annual Memorial Day service in a deep-rooted and heartfelt dedication that recognized the contribution of American servicemen and women.
President Hannah Holyfield led the commemoration at the former old historic Rockford Methodist Church. She emphasized the kinship of patriotism found within the community and the sacrifice of all veterans.
Michael Hicks, keynote speaker, is one such example in Rockford. He spoke along with father Joe, an Air Force veteran.
Michael Hicks served 24 years in the United States Navy, while stationed on board the USS Nicholas. In his speech, he said he survived an attack by Somali pirates and did two tours in Iraq.
Even so, he said it was the attack on Sept. 11 that forever changed him. “I had spent 13 years in the service and I had intellectualized war until 9-11,” he said.
“The American flag is a truly a symbol that is vast and diverse. I really love the Star-Spangled Banner,” he said.
He reminded the small attending audience that fathers and sons often serve together and what that sacrifice can cost.
He said the saddest moment of his service came after learning his Navy Senior Chief Gary Campbell’s son was shot in action. He described how many soldiers have paid literally with their blood in areas all over the world.
He explained the challenge of fighting real wars, that often seem invisible to others, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Those battles are real, he said.
The fight has been worth it, said Hicks.
“In America, our children are free to love and be loved by who they choose, that is an ideal worth fighting for,” said Hicks.
Holyfield and Rockford Preservation Society Vice President Marion Venable took turns reading the many names of those who had served their country, some paying the ultimate sacrifice of their life, starting with the Revolution War beginning in 1775.
Names were read from the War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and peacetime.
The reading of the names permanently memorialized real people never forgotten by the local families around them. Their names left on the stones remind a small community daily of their sacrifice for America’s freedom.
Air Force veteran Joe Hicks rang a bell 61 times for each local service member buried in the small community and cemeteries of Rockford, Holyfield and Stony Knoll. He also rang the bell to honor some buried in other locations, as far away as Italy.
A flag placement ceremony followed the service.
Flags from the Civil War era and the American flag were placed on soldiers’ graves to memorialize the wars fought. Joe Hicks spoke of the great ideal of America freedom and how reconciliation through wars has ended up bringing Americans together in the community and as whole under a banner of freedom, that did not come without a cost.
Joe Hicks second great-grandfather was Capt. Norman Hicks ,who served in Company A 28th NC, the first in North Carolina, he said.
Holyfield said she chose the song “God of Our Fathers” this year because it was written to commemorate the end of the Civil War in America.
Joe Hicks said outside the community, it is important to remember the amount of lives given. More than 2,000 veterans total die every day, he said. A thousand per day are dying from WWII, he reminded.
He asked that the community remember all veterans serving or that have served the United States of America in a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day.
Pianist Kathleen McCormick concluded the service with a rendition of “God Bless America.”
She played with an old-fashioned hymnal and a vase of America flags on her piano.
Reach Tanya Chilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1921.