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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Traveling display honors Missouri's fallen

Monday, March 26, 2012

(Photo)
Many came to the Southwest Area Career Center this past weekend to view the exhibit honoring Missouri soldiers who had given their lives in active military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Below, Shane Anderson and Jerry Marbut were among the viewers. Above, Bob Painter and Nick Sczenski of Hobbs-Anderson American Legion Post #91 demonstrated how the U.S. flag is properly folded, while Dan Musgrave, 15th District Legion Commander, read the meaning of the folds. [Times Photos] [Order this photo]
A large crowd gathered for the "Remembering Our Fallen - from Missouri" ceremony that took place on Saturday at the Southwest Area Career Center (SWACC) in Monett.

Judge Mike Garrett opened with remarks of the 134 soldiers depicted in photos against American flag backdrops.

"I am impressed at how young these men and women were, and saddened at the loss of their potential," Garrett said. "They have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect all that you and I hold dear -- faith, family and freedom."

Garrett spoke of the horrors the young men and women saw in war, and lauded their sacrifice, courage and noble service to their country.

Mayor Jim Orr gave welcoming remarks to those in attendance, reminding citizens to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation to do three things.

"Support the values that America was founded on," Orr said. "Be an informed voter. America was founded on democracy.

"Protect your civil liberties," Orr said. "Refresh yourself on basic liberties by re-reading the Bill of Rights."

Orr went on to say that many Americans fail to appreciate Memorial Day, considering it instead just another day off of work to barbecue, shop or go to the lake.

"Memorial Day was created for us to remember those that have given their lives in service to this country," Orr said. "We need to pray for the safe return of all the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is truly an honor to stand here and thank you parents for instilling the core values, beliefs and courage for these young men and women to become true patriots," he said.

Russ Moreland, director of SWACC, welcomed guests and spoke of the impact the moving wall had on local students.

"This is a grim reminder that freedom does not come free, Moreland said. "I appreciate the wall being brought in so our high school students can see it and understand what these men and women are fighting for."

Moreland went on to describe the freedoms students enjoy through the education system and ability to achieve their dreams was given through the many sacrifices of military personnel throughout the world.

"From an educational standpoint I'm glad the kids got to witness this for themselves," Moreland said.

POW MIA table

explained

John Williams, president of Rolling Thunder Missouri Chapter #3, described the meaning behind the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) table.

"You may notice a small table here in a place of honor," he said. "It is set for one. This table is our way of symbolizing that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs or MIAs. We call them brothers.

"The table set for one is small," Williams said. "It symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors."

Williams reviewed the meaning of the colors shown in the white table cloth, the red rose and ribbon, the bitterness of the lemon and salt, the inverted glass and empty chair.

"Remember, all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended on their might and aid and relied on them," he said, "for surely they have not forsaken you.

"Remember Sgt. Beau Bergdahl, US Army, from Idaho, who is being held by the Taliban and Al Queda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," Williams urged. "Freedom isn't free. It never has been and it never will be."

A mother's comments

Gold Star Mother Teresa Stark then spoke of her son, Army Specialist Christopher Stark, was killed in action on Feb. 28, 2011, in Afghanistan.

"As I listened to John, I was remembering a year ago when we lost Christopher," Stark said. "These POW families have no closure. My heart hurts for them in a different way for the closure they don't have.

"As I watched today, the JROTC posting the colors and greeting us at the door, I had to think about September in 2004," she continued. "Everyone was running around getting ready for school and Christopher yelled at me to come check him out.

"It was the first time he had his uniform on," Stark recalled. "He was a cadet in the inaugural class of the JROTC here in Monett. I looked him over and couldn't say anything. I had to step back and I thought, 'This little boy I once had is becoming a man.'

"As I watched the cadets posting colors, I remembered Christopher was in the color guard," she continued. "They had their first competition in Arkansas and came home with third place. Those boys were so proud.

"He stood with pride when he wore his uniform," Stark said. "He served with pride and loved what he did."

Stark read off the Army's core values, taught in basic training to every young soldier who joins: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

"These are what these cadets, what military personnel across the country, stand for," Stark said. "Policemen, firemen. It's what we all stand for.

"Last Memorial Day became a whole different reflection for me," Stark continued. "I'm guilty of doing some of those things [spoken of previously by Orr]. I apologize now to the ones who protect our freedoms that I did that, until I lost my son. Sometimes things happen before we have a reality check."

Stark went on to describe the great pride she felt for the Monett community and those who supported her family in the days following the loss of her son.

"Last year, when we rounded the corner to go to Jolly Mill for the funeral, I sat in amazement at the sea of flags," Stark said. "For eight miles. That made me smile. In this day and age where we have such a disconnect from God and country and core values, for hundreds of people to stand outside waving flags, it was amazing.

"Not one vehicle passed us on the road," she continued. "Truck drivers, motorists, all pulled over and saluted or held their hats in their hands.

"I knew that day what Christopher had died for," Stark said. "They stopped, not for him, but for what he represented and the love of our country."

Stark also spoke of the peace that has engulfed her since hearing the news of her son's death.

"This year has been a walk that never in a million years I would have guessed I would have walked," she said. "Christmas 2011, I had a strong sense of peace. What an awesome experience it must be to celebrate your first Christmas in Heaven. In my book, it doesn't get any better than that.

"Don't get me wrong," she continued. "Christmas was filled with all kinds of emotions. But at the end of the day, what mother could not want a better gift for her son that eternal love on Christmas day?"

Stark said she would never be able to thank the businesses and individuals in the City of Monett for their continuing support.

"I may be a Gold Star Mother, but this community is a Gold Star Community," she said.

State recognition for heroes

Brigadier General [retired] Clay Newman then spoke of the heroes from all over the state that were being honored with the remembrance ceremony.

"Liberty is a rare commodity in this world," Newman said. "They heard the call from their country and they answered.

"It is our country's continued commitment to protect freedom," Newman said, "and the culture and values that bind America together.

"Let us salute those that made paid the ultimate price," he said. "Be proud. Never forget those on this wall of the sacrifice they have made and the sacrifices made by their families to give us freedom."

Members of the Hobbs-Anderson American Legion Post #91 performed a flag folding ceremony, detailing what each fold of the flag represents.

The names of all Missouri's fallen soldiers were read by representatives of the Monett Police Department, Monett Fire Department, Tom Wolfe Memorial Post #4207 Veterans of Foreign Wars, Hobbs-Anderson Post #91 American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The audience observed a moment of silence for the fallen, followed by a music video performance of Radney Foster's (tower remix) "Angel Flight," describing the last trip home for those in the military.

Aurora resident Phillip McKinley performed "Casualty of War," followed by a rifle volley by the Monett VFW and the playing of "Taps" by Bridget Barta and Chris Dunaway.



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