On the 11th month, the 11th day, and at the 11th hour, I had the honor to witness a ceremony designed to give tribute to the men and women who have served our country's military with honor. This particular ceremony was dedicated to the fallen...to those who never returned to their homes and their loved ones. I was standing in Kingsport's Veteran's Park. I have passed this park on several occasions never stopping to walk the avenue lined with paving bricks: each brick bearing witness to the name of a fallen son or daughter of Kingsport in past wars.
It was a humbling avenue leading to several granite markers etched with the name and map of a foreign theater of war on one side and the names of the fallen in the theater on the other.
The ceremony began with the chiming of bells. 11 times the bell chimed. It was 11a.m. The timing coincides with the signing of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)
Today's somber ceremonies were well attended by several Veteran's organizations as well as by the lone veteran (with or without his/her family present.) I estimate there were over a hundred people in attendance. The majority of the attendees were from Rolling Thunder, but some of the other organizations mentioned were: Veteran's of Foreign Wars, Submariners from WWII, and The Viet Nam Vets Org.,
As I walked among the crowd shooting photos, I heard sobs from both men and women. Quiet tears of pain and sadness as they remembered the lost in their lives to wars. It was heart-breaking. Listening to the speakers as they talked about why we were all gathered there that day, we could all hear their voices cracking with emotion, often times the speakers stopped in order to gather their passions and carry on. It was hard. It was emotionally hard for all of us who attended.
One of the most moving parts of this ceremony was the "MISSING MAN TABLE". (Please click the link to learn more of this ceremony.)
Toward the end of the hour long ceremony, came the dedication of 3 more names to the granite memorial stones harboring the names of our war dead. Two were names of men who had recently died in the Middle East (Afganistan and Iraq) while the third was of a boy who died in 1965, just turned 18, 1 week in country, shot and killed in action in Viet Nam. What very sad stories each of these lost soldiers families were holding in their hearts. It was sobering when the mother of one of the fallen men walked to the Afghanistan marker and laid red roses at it's base. Signifying their loss and love of the man who died in that country.
One of the very last things to happen here, was the dedication of the "MISSING/MIA" flag.
|Awarded by U.S. Public Law 101-355|
|Awarded for||On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, recognizing the National League of Families POW/MIA Flag and designating it "as a symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation." Beyond Southeast Asia, it has been a symbol for POW/MIAs from all American Wars.|