Thursday, June 2, 2005

Veterans light eternal flame

Staff Writer

The eternal flame is once again lit and will burn continuously at the Veterans’ Memorial in Holly Springs, thanks to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and the City of Holly Springs.

The ceremony Friday afternoon was attended by a mixed crowd of veterans, officials, and interested community members and served as a Memorial Day celebration.

The monument was dedicated July 17, 1971, by VFW Posts 75, 250, and 5697 and carries the names of veterans who made the supreme sacrifice in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The monument was installed 34 years ago by Charles Thomas, father of chancery clerk Chuck Thomas.

Friday, Chuck Thomas brought old photos and a purple heart given to his uncle, Leo Thomas, a paratrooper killed in action in Italy April 18, 1945.

One photo also showed Chuck Thomas, then 10 years old, standing with his mother and siblings during the 1971 dedication.

At the lighting of the flame ceremony last week, pastor Troy Defer offered personal thanks to all veterans and active duty military personnel.

“It’s a good thing to see that flag waving” when you come home from a trip abroad, he said. “May we always be able to say, ‘One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All.’ ”

Freedom is something people all over the world are striving for, he said.

Defer spoke of the despair he saw on a trip to the Ukraine where he said tens of thousands of people in the streets moved about with their heads down, silent.

“We owe such a debt to those who paid a debt to protect our nation and our freedom,” he said.

In welcoming remarks, Danny Tate said freedom should always be celebrated on Memorial Day as well as Independence Day because of the men and women who died to keep America free.

“Don’t let Monday (Memorial Day) be just another day off,” he said.

Bill Janssen, commander of VFW Post 5697, said the local post is not the only one that takes notice of the memorial on town square. Veterans from four counties are involved in keeping the VFW in Holly Springs moving including members from Benton County and Southaven.

State VFW Commander Johnny Rainey spoke of the duty to honor both the veterans who died in active duty and those living and serving today.

“The 18 through 24 are the ages of men and women not coming back (from Iraq),” he said. “We ought to pay a lots of respect.”

Don Brown, a Navy man who served in the Korean Conflict, liked the memorial service.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I think there should be more recognition of veterans and people who didn’t come back. There are so many Americans who don’t know our history and what we’ve been through.”

Dennis Carlisle was moved. He served on a destroyer and a destroyer escort in World War II.

“It means an awful lot to me,” he said. “I can hardly talk about it. And I still attend reunions when they have them. This is a glorious thing. We don’t do enough of this. People fight and it (patriotism) means an awful lot to our well being and our country.”

J.M. Ash, who served in two wars and is chairman of the Veterans Affairs Board, said the Veterans’ Memorial was established in 1971 with a grant from Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development with money set aside for improving lawns, buildings and grounds.

“Thomas Monuments put it in and we lit it at the time,” he said. “And the (President) Carter days came along and they said turn it back off as energy savings. Later they turned it back on.”

Problems with the gas lines developed and the flame was not relighted.

Ash said the Mississippi Legislature approved the budget for the Veterans Affairs Friday - budgeting $2,937,376 out of the general fund and $26,232,421 from the special fund.

“This goes to operate four veterans homes, one in Oxford, Kosciusko, Jackson and Collins,” he said. Each facility has 150 beds.

“I think they all are about full all the time with World War II vets,” he said.

Veterans with pensions can live in one of these homes. Several Marshall County veterans are living in one of these homes.

Ash served in the infantry in World War II, joined the reserves and was called to serve in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict.

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