A host of Memorial Day observances were staged across the region Monday. The Cpl. George D. Matthews Post 288 American Legion in Coinjock hosted a service at the Veterans Park in Coinjock and another service was set at the Camden County Courthouse.
At the VFW Post 6060 ceremony at New Hollywood Cemetery in Elizabeth City, guest speaker Army Lt. Col. Edward J. Gawlik, III, said the graves of the military’s fallen trace the nation’s history much like mile markers on the highway.
Gawlik, professor of Military Science at Elizabeth City State University, said drivers look for wooden planks on the roadside to signal their location on the Outer Banks. Like those sign posts, the headstones, statues and Memorial Day services remind the nation of its purpose and place, he said.
“They help us in the midst of reflection, choice and debate. They are meant to remind us that freedom is not free,” Gawlik told a group of about 60 observers.
He said the country can draw on that memory as it faces new threats to freedom - uprisings, nuclear and terrorist threats, and international security breaches across the world.
“The United States of America serves as a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope and freedom to millions across the globe,” Gawlik said. “Why? No need to answer; just look around at all the signposts for freedom and the American way of life.”
He invited observers to visit the gravesites decorated that day with miniature flags as signposts of the nation’s history.
After the ceremony, Juanita Colson of Elizabeth City said she would maker her way to one of those markers, the gravesite of her father, a World War II veteran. Colson said Memorial Day services are one of her regular rituals for remembering.
“I am a flag-waver from way back,” said Colson.
VFW Post 6060 also had its own ritual for remembering. Officers laid a wreath and flowers at the New Hollywood Cemetery memorial marker to honor the sacrifice of fallen military men and women across history.
Meanwhile, several hundred people attended the annual ceremony at Westlawn Memorial Cemetery Monday afternoon.