Cheatham County observed Memorial Day with 62 American flags standing in the field of honor next to the Chris LaCrosse Pavilion at Riverbluff Park.
Sixty-two veterans presented flowers to honor the service of the fallen Cheatham County veterans from World War I (17), World War II (36), the Korean Conflict (2), Vietnam (4), Iraq (1) and Afghanistan (2).
Cheatham County Veterans Affairs Officer Bob Counter served as commander of ceremonies for the event. Local scouts from Cub Scout troops 546 and 126 guarded the flags of the five U.S. military branches.
“Today we pay a special tribute to our fellow comrades, may they rest in peace,” Counter said. “They helped secure freedoms we so enjoy today. This year we highlight military angels of mercy — a special breed of medics, corpsmen, who run into the field of fire toward imminent danger to rescue fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. We honor the doctors and nurses that ensure that those in the military make it through that golden hour.”
Sandy Cannon, speaking on behalf of Ashland City Mayor Steve Allen, recalled an experience from her childhood that resonated with the Memorial Day celebration.
“I remember my mother took my brother to the airport in 1968 to serve in Vietnam,” she said. “There was a man beside who was watching and asked where my brother was going, and we said ‘Vietnam.’ The man told us ‘you’ll never see him again.’ She did see him but not all that went with him returned. This is the day to remember them, and the families of the men and women they loved.”
Cheatham County Mayor Kerry McCarver said that Memorial Day is sadly promoted as the day summer is kicked off, adding that the holiday must be approached with gratitude and respect. He said that flags should be raised higher, not lowered, on Memorial Day.
“We should double the size of the flagpoles,” he said.
Local veteran Harold Hodges led the POW/MIA ceremony.
“That’s those who went and fought and never came home because they’re still missing in action” Hodges said. “That means there are thousands of families that don’t have closure.”
After a prayer for families of the POW and MIA, the Cheatham County Memorial Roll Call of the 62 killed in battle was led by Cheatham County Commissioner and veteran Walter Weakley.
State Rep. Mary Littleton presented Counter with a resolution from the state honoring him for his service to the veterans in Cheatham County. Counter is retiring this month from the VSO after taking the job in December 2012. He served 22 years in the Air Force from 1972 to 1996.
The guest speaker for the event was Lt. Col. Michael Wisseman. Counter said that Wisseman served in Iraq and was the chief nursing officer at the 86th Combat Support Hospital.
Wisseman mentioned several veterans, including Cheatham County’s Gary Lee Reese, who was killed in Iraq.
“I saw his name on the bridge crossing Sycamore Creek, and I looked up his name,” he said. “He was a stellar individual who enlisted after high school to join the national guard. I think of the friends he served with.”
Wisseman said he remembers being inspired by the Red Cross flag when he worked as an EMT in school and as a volunteer in a local hospital. He said he learned a lot about the Red Cross when he last deployed in Kuwait.
Wisseman put a Red Cross on the building he and others occupied on an airfield just inside Iraq.
“They knew where to go to get care and relief,” he said, adding that advances in medicine and treatment and response time have helped to increase the survival rate on the battlefield to 93 percent.
“Never stop trying to get them all home,” he said.