HUNTERSVILLE – In a stoic and somber setting, a standing-room-only crowd at American Legion Post 321 paid respects to military personnel who died in service to their country during the town’s 17th annual Memorial Day ceremonies.
A stormy weather forecast forced ceremonies indoors, and delayed the official opening of Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell, but hundreds of residents, most carrying miniature American Flags, filled every corner of the American Legion Post building to witness and take part in the event.
Mayor John Aneralla served as master of ceremonies for the program that included participation by the Huntersville Police Department Honor Guard, cadets from the North Mecklenburg High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, the Community Singers of Lake Norman, representatives from Post 321, including Chaplain of the Day Tom Sullivan, bagpiper David Thornburg and members of Cub Scout Pack 19 and Scout Troop 19.
In addition, the ceremony included a keynote address from Bill Oxford, the past state commander of the American Legion, and remarks from guest speakers representing individual branches of United States military service.
In his comments, Oxford told the audience Memorial Day is a sacred time to remember “Those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to you, me and this country.” He added that while those lost can “never be replaced, their sacrifice must be remembered.”
He acknowledged the mourning and sadness associated with death, but urged those in attendance to focus on the commitment made by those remembered. “Don’t ponder their loss,” he said. “Promote their legacy.”
After Oxford’s address, Post 321 Auxiliary Unit member Toni Reale read the poem “In Flanders Field,” and veterans representing branches of the military made brief remarks. The honored guests included Post 321 Commander Joe Reale, Army; Master Sgt. (Ret.) Niall Mulkeen, Marine Corps; Capt. (Ret.) Mark Gibbons, Navy; Col. (Ret.) Charlie Clatterbaugh, Air Force; and Division Commander, Western Carolinas Jim Cortes, Coast Guard.
Following the remarks, members of Post 321 placed a commemorative wreath at the stage and the Community Singers of Lake Norman performed the “United States Armed Forces Medley.”
The ceremony was planned by the Huntersville Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) and organized by Alison Ahrens, the department’s events coordinator. At the end of the program, Reale also recognized HPRD Director Michael Jaycocks for overseeing the development of Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell. The park, featuring monuments saluting each branch of the U.S. Military, is finished and grand opening ceremonies have been rescheduled for June 14.