GARNER — The line of veterans facing Mayor Ronnie Williams stretched deep and wide as he began presenting each one with a medal commemorating their military service.
Those veterans, between 75 and 100 of them, were just part of a much larger crowd that turned out Monday to observe Memorial Day with songs, speeches and even a wreath-laying.
Mayor Ronnie Williams praised the veterans in remarks to open the hour-long ceremony.
“There are a lot of reason I’m proud to be Mayor of Garner,” Williams said. “This event today is one of those reasons. I’m glad we take the time to celebrate our veterans and I’m glad we are able to do it here in front of this memorial.”
Williams said he realized those in attendance could have been doing other things on a Monday holiday.
“The pools are open, the weather is nice, the stores have sales going on. You could have been a lot of other places today, but you chose to spend part of your day with us. I wish there were more people here. There ought to be about 5,000 people here, but we won’t talk about that. I’m just glad you are here,” Williams said.
Terry Chatfield, the post commander for American Legion Post 232, said Memorial Day is a day for reverence.
“We should hold this day sacred. Let’s renew our loyalty to our country and to our flag,” Chatfield said.
The most spectacular moment in Monday’s observance came near the end of the event, when Veterans Committee member Fay Gardner asked veterans to report to the podium to recieve medals from the town.
As the veterans lined up, Williams greeted each one and hung the medal around the veteran’s neck. It soon became clear that the task was going to be a big one and Legion members began presenting the medals to help move it along.
After that work was complete, the group of veterans posed for pictures and spread out across the breadth of the staging area where Monday’s celebration took place.
The event also included a more introspective moment as members of Post 232 laid a wreath under the flagpole at the Veterans Memorial, which rose behind the podium in front of the crowd. Savannah Richmond, a student at Garner High School, and her father Kevin, performed a pair of patriotic songs for the crowd, including Lee Greenwood’s seasonal favorite “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @garnercleveland