The flag of the United States and flags representing all branches of the U.S. military flew as members of the North Georgia Barbershop Singers sang the Star-Spangled Banner on Friday, one of several tributes at a ceremony to honor veterans who have passed away.
Trying to beat bad weather on Friday, the city of Cumming hosted the annual Memorial Day ceremonies at the city’s Veterans War Memorial, which was capped off 10 new local veterans added to the city’s Avenue of Flags, which has honored nearly 300 local veterans for their service since 1995.
“Some of the flags are flown for soldiers killed in action, some for those who served in times of war, some for prisoners of war and still others for those who served in times of peace, all of whom earned the honor of a military funeral at their passing in acknowledgement of their service to the United States of America,” said the Rev. Bonnie Underwood, a United States Marine Corps veteran who served as the master of ceremonies.
During the ceremony, veterans were honored with patriotic songs from the North Georgia Barbershop Singers and a rifle salute and playing of Taps by the Forsyth County Fire and Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard.
The keynote address was delivered by retired U.S. Army Col. John Davis, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and as an engineer plans officer with U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Command.
Davis gave the stories of Frank Luke Jr. — a World War I pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service, — Sharon Lane — the only American nurse killed by enemy fire in Vietnam and the four Marines who died in a helicopter training crash in July in southern California, Capt. Samuel Schultz, First Lt. Samuel Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Holley and Lance Cpl. Joseph Conrad.
“They still speak to us. If you listen quietly you can hear them. You remember their voices from conversations before they gave their last measure of devotion to this country,” Davis said.
“Even if you are not a gold star family, a battle buddy, friend or relative of a fallen hero, all you have to do is look around and you will see their legacy: It is us, Americans gathered in a free society unified with the common purpose of honoring uncommon bravery. We are their legacy.”
Though flags dedicated at past ceremonies were not displayed at the ceremony due to weather concerns — a planned dove release was canceled for the same reason — eight new flags representing 10 local veterans were added to the Avenue of Flags.
Family members of the veterans who donated the flags also unfurled the flags of their loved ones during the ceremony.
Shirley Holtzclaw unfurled a flag for her husband, Marcus Holtzclaw, who served two years in the U.S. Army and seven years in the Army Reserve.
“God gave me the pleasure of being married to him for 64 years,” she said.
She said she appreciated the city remembering its veterans and said it was something all local residents should attend “not just the people that are dedicating the flags.”
“I think it’s just wonderful that the city has kept this legacy up,” Holtzclaw said.
Some of the dedicated flags were to honor multiple veterans in the family.
“We did a dual flag for my uncle, George Morris, and my father, Stephen Kost,” said Jeff Kost, who was joined by several family members. “They both served in the Marine Corps. They were very good friends for many years, and we decided to do it jointly.”