‘MAY WE HONOR THEIR MEMORY’ | Locals gather for annual Memorial Day tribute

“Each carries within us the memories of that time – the scorching heat, the endless sand, the thunder of artillery and the bonds forged in the crucible of combat.”
There are countless stories of men and women serving their nation in war, Kevin Clark recalled Monday, Memorial Day. A Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marines, his story was set in the blaze of Desert Storm.
“It was a time of uncertainty of fear, but also of unwavering resolve and steadfast dedication to a cause greater than ourselves,” Clark told the service members and supporters who gathered May 27 at the Veterans’ Memorial Plaza in downtown Gladewater. “For many of us, the memories of those we lost in that desert expanse are etched into our hearts forever. We remember their laughter, their courage, their unwavering commitment to duty.

“”As we gather here today, let us pause to remember, to reflect, and to recommit ourselves to the noble cause for which so many have laid down their lives. May we honor their memory not only with our words but also with our deeds, and may we strive each day to be worthy of the extraordinary gift they have given us – the gift of freedom.” GySgt. Kevin Clark, USMC Retired

“We remember the moments shared in the midst of chaos – the quiet conversations beneath a starlit sky, the shared meals in makeshift chow halls, the embraces that spoke volumes in the absence of words.”
Amidst the pain of loss, the Gladewater educator and councilman reminded the audience, there is also a profound sense of gratitude.
“Gratitude for the privilege of having known such remarkable individuals, gratitude for their selflessness and sacrifice and gratitude for the freedoms we hold dear, which they defended with every fiber of their being.”
This week’s annual ‘Decoration Day’ observance was once against hosted by the Gladewater Former Students Association, which spearheaded the development of the East Pacific Avenue memorial. President Danny Sorrells opened the ceremony followed by the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance by Major Robert Green (Ret.) and an opening prayer by Rev. Dr. Ricky Moore.
Mayor Brandy Flanagan, flanked by members of the Gladewater City Council, read the 2024 Memorial Day Proclamation before remarks by council member Rocky Hawkins. In addition to the playing the anthem of each U.S. military branch and recognizing service members, GFSA’s Leslie Willeford read the names of veterans newly-added to the memorial and “Taps” played as U.S. Marine (Ret.) Leon Watson raised the flag.
“I always admired the men and women that served in the military. They have my deepest respect,” Hawkins said, recalling a stirring trip to Washington D.C. “You couldn’t hardly keep from being emotional, thinking about all the many sacrifices that were made to keep this nation free.”
It’s a sacred occasion to gather on Memorial Day, Clark said, one that makes his heart swell with both pride and sorrow.
“Pride for the valor and sacrifice of those we’ve lost and sorrow for the emptiness left behind in their absence,” he said. “Today, we come together not only to remember but to honor.
“To honor the brave souls who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation, to honor their families who carry the weight of their absence and to honor the unbreakable spirit of camaraderie that binds us as brothers and sisters in arms.”
Pay tribute to the fallen, Clark added, and also remember the loved ones they left behind.
“Their sacrifice is immeasurable, their resilience awe-inspiring and their love unwavering,” he said. Don’t dwell only on the past, Clark added, but take the day as a call to action: “A call to honor the legacy of those we’ve lost by living lives worthy of their sacrifice. Let us strive to be the best versions of ourselves, to stand up for justice, to defend the oppressed and to uphold the values for which they gave their lives.
“And let us never forget that the true measure of a nation’s greatness lies not in the strength of its military or the expanse of its borders but in the depth of its compassion, the resilience of its spirit and the steadfastness of its commitment to freedom and justice for all.”

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