By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The United States flag hung at half-staff early Monday as more than 100 people gathered at Veterans Memorial Park for Memorial Day ceremonies to honor men and women who died in service to their country.
Keynote speaker Retired Col. Bobby Christopher highlighted the significance of the flag-raising to half-staff the morning of Memorial Day, then to the top of the flagpole at noon.
Hanging at half-staff, the flag is a tribute to those who gave their lives, Christopher said, and raising the flag to full-staff is a reminder to survivors to honor their memory.
Christopher said he regretted the significance of Memorial Day seems to have been lost among the general population, and it is up to people who honor and remember to keep its importance at the forefront.
“We must remind ourselves and educate our friends and family about the importance of this holiday,” Christopher said.
Christopher also honored the extraordinary work of the late William “Leon” Marcy Sr., who died in January at age 91.
Marcy was the first chairman of the Veterans Park Commission, “knocking on doors and soliciting money to make the Veterans Park project come to fruition,” Christopher said.
Marcy worked many years at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Memphis before retiring and returning to Tupelo, where he served as Lee County’s Veterans Servicer for many years, was active in the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans organizations.
“A patriotic American, Leon enjoyed a lifetime of volunteer service for causes important to veterans and their families,” Christopher read from Marcy’s obituary.
Christopher acknowledged the dozens of veterans attending the ceremony, World War II veterans like 90-year-old Ronnie K. Young, who was emcee of the event; Korean War veterans; Vietnam War veterans; veterans of other military actions, including Desert Storm and Desert Shield; and veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War in Afghanistan.
John Quirk, who served 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, and Shirley Quirk, a Civil Service employee also for 28 years, live in Tupelo and never miss the service.
“He had a really good speech,” Shirley Quirk said.
Luther and JoAnn Brackeen of Tupelo also attend the ceremony each year.
“I’m a member of all the local veterans’ groups,” Luther Brackeen said. The Belmont native served in the U.S. Navy in Korea and Vietnam, and retired from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Boyce Shelton was at the event with his wife Kay. He served in the U.S. Army 52nd Air Defense in 1962-64, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“Thank you to a veteran goes much farther than all the memorials you can build,” Christopher said.