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Pelion Ruritan’s hold their 4th annual Veteran’s Memorial Service

Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – Despite overcast skies and the threat of rain that did finally come later in the day, the Pelion Ruritan Club held its 4th annual Veteran’s Memorial Service Monday at the site of the monument they completed in honor of those servicemen and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country in past years. The site, located on Main Street near the town hall, is one of the most impressive in the Midlands. Not because it’s grandiose in size or in any way opulent, rather its setting is beautiful, quiet, and gives visitors the feeling that it is exactly what it is, a place to quietly reflect on the fact that people have fought and died so that we might be able to live as we do in a country where our freedoms to do almost anything are guaranteed.

Kay Collings and her husband Bennie once again played key rolls in the organization of the event. The two have been a large part of the driving force behind this effort to conceive, build, maintain, and each spring honor this hallowed site. They are joined by a committee that includes Charlie and Jean Haggard, Beverly Jackson, Sam Jackson, Steve Neese, and CMSgt. Tim Treaster (USAF Ret.). None of these would ever once seek recognition for their contributions and all would be angry if I pointed out the countless hours they contribute to this project without expectation of recognition or reward, but they have.

The ceremony is absolutely beautiful every year. From the ringing of the hour on a long chime, to the presentation of the colors by the Pelion High Schools JROTC, and the musical selections by the Southern Gospel Group Soldiers of Faith, it was as always, dignified, somber, thoughtful, beautiful, again beautiful.

The keynote remarks by LTC Travis Mills, commander of the 2-60th Infantry, anchored the entire ceremony. Who could speak of service but someone who has served? He has commanded the lost and had to deal with those who would never see their loved ones again. He spoke of a family member of a service member who had died and how she had turned the loss from a tragedy into another selfless act of giving. The giving of the ultimate sacrifice didn’t stop at a soldier’s graveside, rather it fostered good from the tragedy.

Of course, politicians spoke as they would. One, Pelion’s mayor Frank Shumpert whose family has called the area home for more than 125 years, has shown his family’s love for the community by its giving back, a measure of what each of us can be like if we haven’t or aren’t currently serving in the military. We as Americans can’t forget what has been done for us and need to continue to give in the name of freedom in whatever way, large or small, that we can.

Eventually, Ed Wilkes, a piper dressed in a traditional kilt, stood at the head of a half circle of Patriot Guard Riders and played Amazing Grace and a medley of each of the service’s songs on the bagpipes. The faded flag that had hung over the memorial for a year was lowered by cadets from the high school and a new one, ready to stand the test of another 12 months, was raised and then lowered to its place of remembrance at half-staff. The chaplain of the Pelion Police Department, the Reverend Jerry Branham, gave the benediction and the Honor Guard from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department fired three volleys from seven rifles as a 21-gun salute. Then, as he has each year, Pelion High School’s Band Director Otto Hage stood in the shadows of a crepe myrtle and played Taps. Even the smallest children in the crowd seemed to be still, quieted by the mournful sound of the horn.

As always, the Pelion Ruritan’s ceremony was one of the ones that truly make you think. You think of the people listed on the monument who died in our country’s battles for us so that we might be able to pause the BBQ’s, the days of playing on the lake, the relaxing, and just take the time to remember those who died so that we could do even just such things.

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