Memorial Day observances planned for Henry and Clayton

By Valerie Baldowski


In Henry and Clayton counties, city and county governments, civic groups, and local businesses are planning many Memorial Day activities and observances.

Henry County will hold a Memorial Day service Monday at the Veterans Wall of Honor at Heritage Park in McDonough, according to Bill Hightower, commander for the American Legion Post No. 55. The service will begin at 10 a.m. "There's a saying on the Veterans Wall of Honor, 'All gave some, some gave all,'" said Hightower. "Ours is a memorial service for those who gave all. We're going to pay honor and respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

The keynote speaker at the Veterans Wall will be Maj. Phillip N. Ash, commander of recruiting station Atlanta for the United States Marine Corps. He is highly decorated for his distinguished service and many accomplishments, which include the Bronze Star, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation with Gold Star, the Combat Action ribbon, to name a few.

Multiple veterans groups will organize the service, including the American Legion Post No. 33 in Stockbridge, posts 55 and 516 in McDonough, the American Legion Fourth District, the Marine Corps League Detachment No. 1339, and the VFW Post No. 11576, serving in McDonough, Hightower said.

In Clayton County, the Beach at the county's International Park in Jonesboro will open Saturday with a Memorial Day weekend celebration to kick off its 2010 season. A fireworks show will be presented Saturday evening.

In Stockbridge, a service is planned for 11 a.m., at Memorial Cemetery, near Dabney-Hunter-Simmons Park, said Stockbridge's Mayor Lee Stuart. The program will include a presentation of colors by a color guard unit, the pledge of allegiance, invocation, and formal recognition of 14 veterans buried in the cemetery, said Stuart. Family members of the veterans buried there are expected to attend.

"Memorial Day started in Charleston, S.C., in the 1800s," Stuart said. He said he served 32 years in the United States Army before retiring in 2002. The mayor stressed the importance of the role Memorial Day plays in encouraging respect for veterans. "I was brought up that way, we've always paid our respects," he said. "It's time for America to stop, come out, and pay respect, wherever you live. The people who came before us are the reason we are here today."

In Jonesboro, American Legion Post No. 258 will conduct a flag-planting ceremony Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Jonesboro City Cemetery, located on the corner of Johnson Street and Irvin Street. The public is invited. The American Legion, and Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, as well as the Jonesboro City Council, will honor deceased veterans, according to Jim Montgomery, adjutant for American Legion Post No. 258.

After the program, Boy Scouts from Troop 136 and Troop 909, Cub Scouts from Pack 543, and auxiliary Junior Girls, will place American flags on the gravesites at the cemetery, said Montgomery.

In Hampton, crosses with American flags were erected along Main Street in front of the old Depot Building, said Hampton City Councilman Charlie Hearn. The crosses were put up on May 21, and will stay up until June 4, or 5, said Hearn. "What we're doing is honoring the people who served in the armed forces, the people who are deceased, and who've gone on," he said.

This year, 128 memorial markers were erected, 20 more than last year. "I think it's important that we remember what these people gave," added Hearn. "Some of them gave the ultimate sacrifice - their lives."

In Locust Grove, 26 American flags were posted on the lawn of the City Hall Complex on Wednesday.

Observing Memorial Day is a way to salute military personnel, said Linda Hutchison, downtown development coordinator for the City of Locust Grove. "We really are remembering our veterans," said Hutchison. "I have a son in the military, he's airborne Army. My husband just retired from the United States Air Force as a master sergeant, after 27 years. My father was in World War II, and he is still living."

Horis A. Ward Funeral Home in Stockbridge will have a program beginning at 11 a.m., at the Fairview Memorial Gardens, 367 Fairview Road, according to Funeral Director Ted Cash. The speaker for the event will be United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Robert Pritchard. More than 600 flags, on 15-foot poles, were erected around the memorial garden for the occasion, and they are expected to stay up until June 1, said Cash.

Music will be provided by Charlie Murray, a member of Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers, and food will be provided by Shane's Rib Shack, he said. Expected attendance for this year's event is 600, continued Cash.

He said the Memorial Day observance has become a tradition at the funeral home. "We've done this for about 10 years," he said. "It started a few years ago, feeding the people, mostly from the food standpoint. Now, we're feeding them from a mental and spiritual side."