Gratitude, respect fill Warner Robins Memorial Day event

mstucka@macon.comMay 26, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Clarence Davis answers to many names, but amid the graves of veterans, only “Gunny” seemed to get his attention.

Davis, 82, came to Monday’s Memorial Day service at Magnolia Park Cemetery impeccably dressed in his U.S. Marine Corps uniform, representing the time he’d served from the Korean War through the Vietnam War.

Standing near veterans’ graves, he said, “I know some of them out here ... I just feel like I should come. I just feel like it. And I wore my uniform, for them.”

He was joined by about 200 people, most of whom wore hats from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Retired Enlisted Association. Others wore Vietnam War-style boonie hats.

Pledge M. Cannon, past commander of the VFW in Georgia, said Gen. John Logan established Memorial Day in 1865.

“We have honored this promise ever since,” he said, calling it “a debt we can never truly, fully repay.”

The Rev. Gregory P. Hendricks, who served in the U.S. Air Force, said Americans need to remember the people who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many of them died young and many died on foreign soil.

"They may be gone, my brothers and sisters, but yes, they will never be forgotten," he said.

Members of about eight veterans organizations were represented at the event, off Pleasant Hill Road in Warner Robins. Many brought wreaths to lay before an eternal flame, which rose from a pillar "dedicated to the honor and glory of those who made sacrifice, that the oppressed be free and the world a world of free men."

Jim Murphy, who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps and a captain in the U.S. Air Force, said he thought about what his father faced as he landed with the U.S. Army in the third wave at Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion of France. Murphy figures he was able to attend the ceremony because of people like his father, who either gave their lives through service or were prepared to give them.

Murphy's father, Pfc. Charles P. Murphy, survived Normandy, and went on to earn four other battle stars. The son helped set out between 1,200 and 1,800 flags on veterans' graves.

The Memorial Day ceremony was a somber affair. But after it was over, veterans gathered together, celebrating the camaraderie they’d experienced as younger men. The former Marines practiced their "Oorah."

And when that was over, Davis, who'd begun his service in August 1950, and left in July 1971, was singled out for more pictures. After getting an embrace, he obliged.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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