By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – As a boy Major General A. Leon Collins didn’t know the significance of the area inside the brick walls near his aunt’s Corinth home when he visited her.
The Booneville native told dozens of people gathered Sunday afternoon inside those walls at the Corinth National Cemetery for the Memorial Day program that someone had probably explained what the place was, but he was too young to really understand.
“There will be many different kinds of activities this Memorial Day weekend, but don’t lose focus of what this holiday is really about,” Collins said. “Our prayers go out to the families who have sacrificed their loved ones for us. We could never repay you for what you have lost. This is our time to say thanks to those who put themselves between the enemy and us.”
Appointed Adjutant General of the Mississippi Army National Guard in January by Gov. Phil Bryant, Collins served as commander of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade in Iraq as a colonel.
“In Iraq I had soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines,” about 4,500 in all, the general said. “I remember each and every face, how we laughed together, experiences we shared, and I want to remember them always.”
The program included an honor guard of men who had served in various branches of the military.
Retired Brigadier General Bill Huff, as master of ceremonies, acknowledged the two local Gold Star mothers, and asked veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War veterans through Afghanistan, and members of law enforcement to stand and be acknowledged for their service.
Mississippi still has about 1,600 soldiers serving in the Gulf region, and others have yet to be deployed before current conflicts are over.
“Many have raised their hand and made the promise to protect and defend this great country of ours,” Collins said. “They made a commitment to service above self and understood the meaning of completing the mission. Let us not forget their service, sacrifice, valor and patriotism.”