Curtis Jones said he’s often wondered why generations of men and women still join the United States military, knowing that some of them will sacrifice their lives in the process.
The Bibb County schools superintendent, a West Point graduate himself, told the crowd at Monday’s Memorial Day service that the answer lies in the makeup of the individuals.
“The men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice are men of character, women of character,” he said.
More than 150 people gathered for the observance at Macon Memorial Park. In addition to Jones’ speech, which included his reading of the Gettysburg Address, the crowd witnessed a 21-gun salute, a wreath ceremony and the playing of taps.
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The group stood and sang along as the band Four for the Show performed “Amazing Grace,” “God Bless the USA,” the “Armed Forces Medley” and “God Bless America.”
Vietnam veteran Michael Lynch, 67, said he was glad to see so many people come to honor the fallen.
“They need to be honored. ... They certainly gave all,” he said. “They gave all of their yesterdays, all of their time, so we could have tomorrows.”
Even though he didn’t fight in an active combat zone, 65-year-old veteran Leonard Pless Jr. said honoring veterans was an important and welcome change from the past.
“It means a whole lot to me,” Pless said. “In the ’60s and early ’70s, you didn’t see a lot of celebration for veterans.”
On Monday, Jones used the Army values acronym LEADERSHIP -- which stands for loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage -- to honor veterans of all branches of service. Because of those values, he compared the teamwork of the armed forces to that of successful sports teams.
“Those teams are nothing compared to the Army team, the Marine Corps team, the Air Force team,” he said.
The values that are instilled in members of those branches are what leads them to be willing to lay down their lives for the American cause, Jones said.
“Those individuals have dedicated themselves to a way of life that allows them to put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.
While many of the people in attendance were veterans, some were regular Middle Georgia citizens looking to pay their respect.
Josh Quinn brought his wife and children to the service, even though he didn’t personally serve in the military.
He does have family members who served, and he said his father started the tradition of honoring the true purpose of Memorial Day, a tradition Quinn is continuing.
“Just seeing about the men and women that fought and died for our country, understanding and not forgetting,” he said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.