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Pelion Ruritan, joined by community, gathers at the Veteran’s Memorial to truly remember and say tha

Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – Record heat engulfed the area Monday morning as crowds of people came together in Pelion. It was Memorial Day, a day to remember the fallen. The flag that was flying the past year was swapped for a new one. For 12 months, the new flag, a crisp, creased, distinctive red, white, and blue when raised Monday, will fly over the memorial to honor veterans who’ve left the most precious gift of all on the field of battle. 12 months later, the flag’s stars and stripes will be faded, the edges a bit frayed, as the whole ceremony repeats itself. This is the memorial services fifth year.

The heat is something our children, even us as an older generation, easily complain about. Although there was a cool breeze that occasionally blew, it was hot. Walk through the crowd on Monday, and you could hear people speak of it. Some of the same people complaining Monday had lamented the cold just a few months ago. Hot, cold, rain, dry, these conditions can make us uncomfortable and we can’t help but complain about the discomfort. Do we truly know discomfort here on US soil?

On Memorial Day, you should take the time to ponder the true meaning of the holiday and you’ll realize how comfortable we are. After the ceremony was over, we’d return to our homes and our air conditioning. We’d sit by a pool, go to the lake, and enjoy the day with family, friends, food, and cool drinks. All this joy and relaxation, and most importantly the freedom to do what we’d like, was made possible by those who died on the field of battle so we could choose. That’s why so many came to Pelion Monday to remember those men and women who died. An estimated 200 people gathered in Pelion to remember and show they cared. Those who served were honored. Those who haven't seemed to know what has been given.

As the welcome was given, who remembered the heat that our men faced as they fought for each island in the Pacific during World War II? During the keynote address, as the students of Pelion High School sang or the band played patriotic tunes, who thought of the bone chilling cold our troops faced in Korea? Was the heat, rain, and humidity of Vietnam given a second thought as the Soldiers of Faith sang their beautiful harmony? Were the dry, oppressive oven like inferno blast of Iraqi, or the freezing cold and then baking hot days and nights in Afghanistan, these true discomforts, thought about as friends mingled? Who gave those a thought Monday as small flags on wooden sticks were being waved by children? More importantly, do we remember the pain and suffering, the hole left in the hearts of our service men and women who stepped over the bodies of their friends as they charged forward attacking the enemy? The mother’s tears, the brother’s longing, the caskets being lowered into the ground, all these we must remember lest we forget the struggle, become too comfortable, and lose sight of what guaranteed us the right to gather together when we want and do as we please.

The Pelion Ruritan Club does a great job every year. They make sure on Memorial Day people truly remember the real story, people paid for our freedom with their lives. The Patriot Guard Riders, the inspirational speeches, the politicians, and the cadets of the JROTC, the laying of the wreath at the base of the monument. The time in which Ethan Summer, a student and member of the Pelion Marching Pride, played a clear, wafting rendition of taps, the changing of the colors, it’s all a part of one of the best Memorial Day ceremonies around. It’s something every child should have to attend. Perhaps they should be taken to stand in the heat, their feet aching a bit, sweat rolling down their brows; it all pales in comparison but they need to know how we are free. They need to know who bought a paid for their freedom. They should know what the 21 shots fire by the Honor Guard from the Lexington County Sheriff's Department stands for.

What is Memorial Day all about? Memorial Day is a day to remember all the members of our military who died in the mud, the heat, the snow, on the field of battle. Their sacrifice wasn’t pretty, comfortable, or easy as their lives slipped away. This Memorial Day, the weather helped the Ruritans get their message across, freedom isn’t free, the giving of the gift is very uncomfortable. Strangers left it all in a far away place so we could later leave the memorial site Monday after the ceremony and enjoy the day.

If you weren’t there Monday morning, go. Take your children to the site on Main Street in Pelion. It's one of the best there is. Take them to a memorial site somewhere, perhaps the one in your town. Press their fingers on the names engraved in the granite. Show them, tell them, do your best to make them understand. People died for what we do and enjoy. Thank you, Pelion Ruritans. Thank you honored friends; rest easy in your eternal slumber knowing we remember and appreciate your sacrifice.

Kay Collins, the organizer of the event and the president of the Pelion Ruritan Club, wishes to thank all of the members of the club who assisted with this event. She also wishes to extend the club's thanks to the Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission, Caughman Harmon Funeral Home, the town of Pelion, The Pelion PD, the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the members of the Richland County Sheriff's Department Honor Guard, the SC Patriot Guard Riders, The Soldiers of Faith, Chief Sergeant Major Tim Treaster, USAF (ret.), Mayor Frank Shumpert and the town council of the town of Pelion, the Pelion High School Chorus, the Pelion High School band, Otto Hage, Chaplin Major Brian K. Smith, Ed Wilkes, the Reverend Jerry Branham, the Pelion High School JROTC, and everyone else who had a part in making this fifth annual event a success.

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