Every year for 26 years, rain or sweltering heat, they come. Some years, it’s a gathering of 50. Other years, the crowd tops 100. No matter the weather, they come to honor and to remember the country’s fallen.

They are the Franklin County veterans, their families and friends, local officials and community organizers who gather at the Franklin County Veterans’ Memorial park each Memorial Day to reflect on the lives of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Their presence and the event itself bespeaks the strong commitment of this community to ensure veterans know their friends and fellow soldiers did not die for naught. Those who were fortunate to return alive from harrowing conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf did not risk their lives for naught.

At a time when the country pauses to honor those who died while serving, may we all also pause to thank the many county residents who set up and attended the county’s Memorial Day Ceremony and lunch.

Let’s thank the speakers who demonstrate courage of heart as they talk candidly about the grief of losing fellow servicemen, of seeing rooms filled with the dead, of the way it feels to take a hit to the chest, of the lonely feeling that few people want to hear “the bad stuff.”

Let’s thank the organizers and local officials who schedule and find the singers and speakers and make the logistics come together, complete with a sound system, a dove to release, an honor guard, traffic control, restroom service, a crew of work-release inmates to set up and break down tables and chairs, and golf carts to carry attendees to and from their cars.

Let’s thank the singers who practice for hours to later stand under the hot sun, sharing the gift of their talent to move the audience with patriotic a cappella harmonies. Let’s thank everyone at Henry Fork Church of the Brethren who cooked up and served a veritable country-style feast, from lima beans to spoon bread to banana pudding; all given in love to veterans and their friends and families.

And lastly, let’s thank every person who not only attended the ceremony, but also those who honor veterans in small and big ways every day. Let’s thank those who work with community members on purchasing and installing memorial bricks for the monument’s base, those who maintain the memorial park, and those who take 20 minutes out of their hectic days to listen and learn about the military experience from someone who’s served.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”

Every Memorial Day, the Franklin County community shows through an event like this that it will not forget.

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