• 81°

Remembering fallen heroes — Doty: ‘It is our responsibility to preserve America as a place worth dying for’

Ninety-nine names of Lincoln County fallen servicemen were read — from Jesse R. Allen, who died in World War I, to Billy Joe Wilson, who lost his life in the Vietnam War.

Following each name was a brief moment of silence by those gathered at the Lincoln County Veterans Memorial Monday for the annual Memorial Day service.

A wreath of red, white and blue roses was placed in front of the memorial and a lone bugler played taps.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, spoke about the monuments like this one that honor those who have sacrificed much.

“When you see all those names in rows and in columns, the sacrifice just leaves you speechless,” she said. “Yet generations of Americans paid that price because we believe that liberty is worth it. Since our founding, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard have never been far from freedom’s front lines. In the past 242 years, hardly a year or two has passed before America is fighting for our values somewhere in the world.”

Americans like her father, the late Sgt. 1st Class Charles Burchfield, an Army tank commander in Korea who came home with stories to tell but didn’t.

“He would never really talk about his service, very much,” she said. “Every now and then we’d get him to talk about it, but I could tell often that when he was thinking about it or talking about it, that he was thinking about his service and especially those who were lost, the friends of his that were lost.”

Doty believes the fallen should be honored, and their sacrifices must be remembered also.

“All of us have to do a better job going beyond commemoration, beyond an hour or two’s time just thinking about their sacrifice,” she said. “Daily, we must act to preserve America as a convincing, compelling and credible force for freedom at home and in the world at large.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the first springtime tributes to fallen servicemen occurred April 25, 1866, in Columbus, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

“I hope we as Mississippians can again lead the way in honoring our fallen beyond Memorial Day,” she said.

She said Americans must honor the living to ensure the sacrifices of the fallen are never in vain.

“It is our responsibility to preserve America as a place worth dying for,” she said.

Before his death, Doty often took her father to the Jackson VA and realized that much still needs to be done for the state’s veterans.

“Of all the places in the nation, Mississippi, a state that invented Memorial Day, should be the last place that our military men and women, fallen or surviving, are disrespected,” she said.

She shared figures — of 200,000 veterans in Mississippi, 9 percent are unemployed, 10 percent live in poverty and 1 percent are homeless.

“We can do a better job for providing for those who served our country and the support that they need,” she said. “I believe our men and women who have fallen in battle would certainly want us to do better, likewise I believe they would be ashamed if we did not. Those of us among the living have a solemn and enduring and daily task of keeping America worthy of the sacrifices made by her fallen men and women in uniform.

“We honor those who that we’ve lost on Memorial Day but it’s what we do beyond Memorial Day that sanctifies their sacrifices and ensures that America remains a land of liberty, a land of freedom that’s given to us by the honor and duty of those who gave their lives for you and for me, so may we never forget the fallen and may God bless this community, may God bless our state of Mississippi and our United States of America.”

About 150 people attended the event, which is sponsored by American Legion Post 12 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2618.