Memorial Day is Marked in Clay County

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Sgt. Colton Clark, Sgt. Ronald Brotherton and Staff Sgt. Joel Hayes provided the military salute Sunday at the Woodland Heights Cemetery at Rector.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Memorial Day 2015 was marked with observances across the nation this past weekend, including the traditional services at both the Piggott Cemetery and Woodland Heights at Rector.

The Rector VFW post held a Memorial Day Service Sunday at the Woodland Heights Cemetery to honor those who have lost their lives in battle and served in the armed forces.

Rector VFW coordinator Jon Bradshaw opened the ceremony by telling the history of Memorial Day. It began during the Civil War when southerners would decorate the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers in spring -- this became known as Decoration Day in 1868. Northern states followed suit in the 1890's, and the last Monday in May was named Memorial Day with the congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971.

Taking part in the annual Memorial Day wreath ceremony at the Piggott Cemetery this year were, from left: American Legion Commander Steve Tate, Navy veteran Eugene Mann and VFW Commander Norman Collins.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Bradshaw said, while doing research, he discovered "1,352,511 soldiers have died in war."

Local volunteers, including Betty Essman, Jill Wynn and 15 RHS students, placed flags on 812 veterans' graves at Woodland Heights Cemetery the previous Friday.

The national anthem was played before Rector VFW chaplain Marston Carpenter gave the opening prayer. In his prayer he gave thanks for all the freedoms we have as Americans, because of the fallen soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Hannah and Emily Huggins then led the group in the pledge of allegiance, and a military medley of songs was played. Guest speaker Ken Roden, minister of the Fifth and Pine Church of Christ, told the story of Elijah, the Israelites and the Syrians to show the power of God in war times.

Teresa Roofe gave a cemetery report, but not before asking for prayers for Rector's armory. The armory is under consideration by the Arkansas National Guard and Gov. Asa Hutchinson to be closed for budget cuts.

Trace Adkins' song, "Til the Last Shots Fired," was played before DET 1 Company A 2/153 Infantry representatives Sgt. Colton Clark, Sgt. Ronald Brotherton and Staff Sgt. Joel Hayes provided the military salute. A recording of TAPS was played before ending the ceremony with a closing prayer given by Roden.

Despite the threat of showers, a good crowd gathered Sunday, May 24, for the Memorial Day service at the Piggott Cemetery. The annual mid-afternoon gathering is hosted each year by the Piggott Cemetery Association, and serves to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives for their country, and includes the yearly business meeting.

Board member Jeff Benbrook welcomed those in attendance, and gave the annual update. He then introduced Bro. Rondal Richardson, of the First Baptist Church of Piggott, who gave the invocation. Richardson also offered the traditional sermon, including a brief history of the Memorial Day holiday.

Keynote speaker for the afternoon was State Representative Joe Jett, of Success, who is also a veteran himself.

Local native, and Navy veteran, Eugene Mann had the privilege of placing the memorial wreath this year, escorted by American Legion Post #38 Commander Norman Collins and VFW Post #4517 Commander Steve Tate.

Afterward, a stirring rendition of "Taps" was performed by recent PHS grad Caleb Benbrook.

On Friday members of the Piggott Mohawk football team had the honor of placing flags on the graves of veterans, and 784 were distributed. This marks an increase of about 15 since last year, the most recent in the past week. Members of the cemetery association offered their thanks to the players for their help. Benbrook also noted the hard work of caretakers J.W. and Jerry Toombs, and credited them with keeping the cemetery in such good shape.

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