Memorial Day Marked In Clay County
Memorial Day 2014 was marked with ceremonies at both the Rector and Piggott cemeteries on Sunday, May 25.
Taps echoed across the serene rolling hills of the Piggott Cemetery Sunday, May 25, as Memorial Day was marked for 2014. Once again this year the Piggott Cemetery Association hosted the annual ceremony near the entrance to the local cemetery, as veterans both living and dead were remembered.
Thursday the process of placing 779 American flags on the graves of veterans began, with over 200 set by cemetery staff and several volunteers. Friday morning members of the Piggott High School Marching Mohawk Band, and members of the Mohawk junior football team, completed the task as they distributed over 500 more to mark the graves of those who served their country.
Accompanied by coaches Michael Harrell and Shawn Hearn, along with Band Director Jeremy Wortham, the students distributed the flags--taking great care to place them properly. Before mid-morning the task was complete.
As a matter of reference, there were 476 flags set for the 1994 Memorial Day service. This year's 779 represented an increase of 303 in 20 years, or an average of one veteran buried every 24 days. And, according to caretaker J.W. Toombs, a total of 15 veterans had been buried since last Memorial Day in the local cemetery.
Sunday's ceremony began with a welcome from Scott Hartwell of the cemetery board, and an opening invocation from Pastor Chris Brantley. Next, the ceremonial wreath was placed by American Legion Commander John Harmon and VFW Commander Steve Tate.
Offering up the traditional performance of "Taps" was Chris Book, a recent graduate of Piggott High School and member of the Mohawk band.
The financial report for the Piggott Cemetery Association was offered by its bookkeeper, Fred Ort. And, Jeff Benbrook was re-elected to another five year term on the board of directors.
The annual Memorial Day sermon was presented by Brantley, pastor of the First General Baptist Church of Piggott.
Meanwhile, The Rector community gathered Sunday to pay tribute to veterans at the annual Memorial Day service at Woodland Heights Cemetery.
Guest speaker for the event, which featured a 21-gun salute by the National Guard, was Angela Smith, public affairs officer for the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff.
A highlight of Smith's comments was the reading of an appropriate Memorial Day poem by Edgar Guest:
The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.
Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.
Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.
The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.
Smith also commented on the work of the hospital in Poplar Bluff, noting that problems being discussed nationally concerning the medical care for veterans is not the case at her facility.
She said the medical service there is outstanding and veterans are being well-served.
The pledge of allegiance at the service was led by Dennis Presson, representing the host Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Rev. Marston Carpenter led the prayers and also made several remarks.
Teresa Roofe, secretary of the Woodland Heights Cemetery Commission, gave the annual financial report. "We are on sound financial footing in the operation of the cemetery," she said.
Small United States flags were placed earlier in the week on the graves of more than 700 veterans buried at the cemetery. Numerous volunteers helped place the flags, including several students from the local school district.