Locals honor fallen soldiers

May 29, 2020 chris
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Photo: Pictured above, Petty Officer Edward Moon (left) and Sgt. Frank Godfrey stand at attention as Gadsden City High School band director Steve Reagan plays “Taps” after placing a wreath on a war marker at Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park on Monday, May 25.

By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer

For the past 20 years or more, the Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association honored the men and women who gave their lives to protect their country.  This Memorial Day was no different, with nearly 50 people gathering together at Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park near Noccalula Falls to remember those who should never be forgotten.

Gadsden City Councilman Ben Reed welcomed locals and visitors to the memorial, stating that while in years past they invited a guest speaker to discuss Memorial Day’s importance, in 2020 the torch would pass. Reed invited attendants to call upon themselves to remember, reflect and honor the men and women in service who did not return home so that they might live today.

Billy Harris began the memorial in prayer, followed by Mitch Chastain, who led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Kim Battles who sang the national anthem.

Sgt. Frank Godfrey and Petty Officer Edward Moon laid a ceremonial wreath on the stone war marker honoring veterans as Gadsden City High School band director Steve Reagan concluded the memorial with “Taps.”

Reagan participated in “Taps Across America” later that afternoon, a nationwide event that called for buglers throughout America to pause and dedicate a moment to fallen service members and victims of the COVID-19 pandemic by simply walking out on their porches and playing “Taps.” At the memorial, people practiced social distancing guidelines while spreading out on lawn chairs in the grass or standing scattered. Overcome with emotion at the display, individuals wiped tears from their eyes as the ceremony ceased.

A member of the U.S. Naval maritime patrol squadron VP-19 during the 1950s, Reed joined with six of his closest friends with whom he still shares a strong and resilient bond today.

While Reed only anticipated about five participants to create the gathering on May 25, he was pleased and grateful to witness all the veterans, families and friends who attended out of love and support.

“Memorial Day is a day that we respect our fallen,” said Reed. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Sgt. Godfrey and Petty Officer Moon have lain the wreath for the past five years. A Korean War and Vietnam War veteran, Sgt. Godfrey served during the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis. Petty Officer Moon also served during the Bay of Pigs and the early stages of the Vietnam War. Godfrey commented on his fellow servicemen and women, recognizing their efforts that paved the way for his own.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.

The pair would often have a World War II Navy submarine veteran who would walk behind them as they placed the wreath, but their usual companion just turned 95 this past September. Both men were elated with the public’s response, commenting on the number of people the memorial generated this year. They hope when the time comes for them to step back, someone else will feel inspired to take their place.

“I can’t let this day go by without remembering,” said Moon. “Before I spoke to Ben [Reed] and we got this started today, I intended to buy a wreath and bring it here, even if no one else was here. I wrote something out that says ‘to the ones who served and came back home, to the ones who served and gave their all—may they never be forgotten.’ It’s just something I feel like I need to do…if they hadn’t served, we might not have the opportunity to.”