Memorial Day observed in East Clay County
The 2016 Memorial Day observance was held Sunday, May 29, at the Piggott Cemetery. The annual business meeting, and election of board members, was also conducted for the Piggott Cemetery Association.
Fred Ort, who was recently elected to fill out an unexpired term on the board, opened the meeting with a word of welcome to those on hand, and then introduced Shawn Parker, who provided the opening prayer.
Afterward, the ceremonial wreath was placed by VFW Auxiliary Vice President Rose Crafton. She was escorted by local American Legion Commander Jim Gearhart, and VFW Commander Steve Tate.
After joining together to recite the Pledge of Allegience, those assembled took part in the usual business meeting.
Ort explained to the crowd that board members Laura Cole and Jeff Benbrook had resigned. He noted he was elected by the board to fill out one of the terms, while Danny Winberry was elected to complete the other. Next, the two positions which expire this year were considered as Sharon Tillman and Mona Scott's time on the board is ending. Ort noted Tillman had expressed an interest in serving another term, while Scott had other plans. He did indicate Brant Tanner was interested, and opened the floor to nominations. Tillman and Tanner were nominated, and elected by a unanimous voice vote.
Ort also reviewed the finances of the cemetery, noting there is currently over $323,000 in CDs and another $9,000-plus in the checking account. He indicated the cemetery was in the red for the last year by about $14,000 due to the purchase of a new mower.
He also reported the reciepts from the Fourth of July Picnic were down, with the exception of the funds raised from the cash drawings, which increased slightly. He also passed out copies of the full financial report to those on hand, and reminded them the books are always open for inspection at his office.
Next, he introduced the keynote speaker for the afternoon, Piggott Mayor Jim Poole. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Poole spoke of the history of the observance and its signifacance. He also spoke of the 777 veterans buried in the Piggott Cemetery, the oldest of which dates back to 1865.
Poole also observed that the ranks continue to grow, as Army veteran Mildred Brown was to be laid to rest nearby later in the afternoon. He also encouraged those attending to visit the many veteran's cemeteries in the country, relating his own emotional visit to those in France where hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were buried during World War II.
Following Poole's comments, Parker offered the closing prayer. Former PHS student Chris Book then performed a stirring rendition of "Taps" and the ceremony ended for another year.
Memorial Day is a misunderstood holiday, according to Paul Schuerenberg, guest speaker at Rector's annual service, held Sunday at Woodland Heights Cemetery.
"It is not Veterans Day but rather a day to remember our fallen service members," he said. "It's not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom."
Schuerenberg, community employment coordinator at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center at Poplar Bluff, said "today our hearts go out to the families of those who have given all they can give in service to our nation. We may share their sorrow, but we cannot know their grief. What we can do -- and we must do as a nation -- is remember those who have fallen.
"Remember what they did; why they did it; and appreciate what that sacrifice means to us. It means freedom. It means security. It means strength, and the motivation to stay strong in freedom's cause. To do any less -- to not remember -- would defile the hopes and dreams of those we honor today."
Welcoming remarks for the service were made by Jon Bradshaw, commander of the sponsoring Rector VFW Post 10480.
Bradshaw noted that 1,354,644 members of the United States Armed Services have been killed in our nation's wars. He thanked Jill Wynn and Rector High School students for placing American flags on the graves of all veterans buried in the beautiful cemetery.
The opening prayer was given by Marston Carpenter, Rector VFW chaplain. Bradshaw then led those gathered in the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.
Tommy Huggins, Clay County veterans service officer, presented a brief history of the Vietnam War, a conflict in which he served. He said there are 58,267 names on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., memorializing those who gave their lives in the war.
Huggins said Richard B. Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass., was the first casualty of the war -- on June 8, 1956. His son, Marine Lance Corp. R.B. Fitzgibbon, also gave his life in the war, on Sept. 7, 1965.
Among the names on the wall are 33,103 who were only 18-years-old when they died in combat, Huggins said.
The history of the war, shared by Huggins, will be placed on the wall of the Visitors Center, located adjacent to Rector Veterans Memorial Park.
Scripture and a brief message were presented by Josh Vangilder, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Rector.
Military music was provided in tapes prepared by Joe Pruett of Rector.
A report on Woodland Heights Cemetery was presented by commissioner Cheri Boyd. She noted other commissioners are Don Robinson, Richard Simmons, Betty Essman and Teresa Roofe.
"I hear many compliments on the beauty of the cemetery and how well it's kept," she said. She recognized the maintenance crew of Brad Weber, Hae Sun Weber, Reed Weber, Wes McCluskey and Tabor Trail.
"This year we have been extremely blessed by a donation from the Melvin Crockett Estate," Boyd said. "The cemetery was given $325,000. We are not certain at this time exactly how this will be used but I can assure you it will be put to good use and was greatly appreciated."
Boyd said the commission has two certificates of deposit of $310,311 and $150,000 and $27,345 in an interest-bearing checking account.
She said there have been 59 buried at Woodland Heights since Memorial Day last year with 16 of them veterans. There are now 6,505 buried at the cemetery, including 835 veterans.
"We are very blessed to live in a town where people are willing to work together to keep our cemetery looking as beautiful as it does," Boyd said. "Thank you for all your support and please feel free to call on any of us if you have any questions."
The service concluded with the playing of TAPS and the closing prayer by Carpenter.