Residents from across the two Virginias gathered Monday to honor veterans, fallen heroes and their families as part of local Memorial Day ceremonies.
Dozens gathered in Bluefield’s Chicory Square to participate in the 30th Annual Memorial Day Celebration hosted by the Bluefield American Legion Riley-Vest Post No. 9. The ceremony honored local veterans and their families including four World War II veterans, four Korean War veterans, 11 Vietnam War veterans, and four veterans from operations including Grenada, Bosnia, Dessert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan present at the ceremony.
Additionally, the Bluefield High School JROTC presented the colors at the ceremony and a wreath was laid at Bluefield’s veterans memorial at Chicory Square. Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope, himself a retired colonel in the West Virginia National Guard, keynoted the ceremony and asked attendees to remember the reason behind the holiday.
“Memorial Day is the day when we show we remember those brave men and women who gave their all so we can be free today,” Swope said. “Where ever they may be, the members of our armed forces keep us free. They sacrifice their lives to protect us each day.”
Crowds also gathered in Bramwell for a parade down Main Street and program including a flag retirement ceremony by the Bluewell Boy Scouts Troop 252.
Trevor Pauley of Bland, Va., said it was an honor for him and his troop to take part in the ceremony.
“We came to honor our veterans and the soldiers who lost their lives in wars,” Pauley said. “We took part in the parade to show our appreciate for the veterans. We recently moved and this was my first flag retirement ceremony with this troop, but I have done them before with my previous troops. It’s important for us to be here and show the veterans we support them.”
Trevor Pauley’s mother, Colene Pauley, also of Bland, said she felt it was important for her son to participate in the flag retirement ceremony. Pauley said it was their first time in Bramwell.
“We got here early and walked through the town,” she said. “It is very nice and was a good program. A lot of the reason why we are here today to enjoy this has been forgotten. Memorial Day and this ceremony brings those reasons why we are free to the attention of the younger generation.”
Judy Coffman and her husband Richard Coffman, a naval veteran, came from Princeton to participate in the parade and ceremony in Bramwell. Judy Coffman said she and her husband moved to the area around a year ago from Florida.
“We are new here, and we thought it would be fun to come out for the festival,” Coffman said. “We were invited down to have a bite to eat and attend the ceremony. We’ve gotten to know a lot about Bramwell as well. I think it is important to remember our veterans, like my husband. They have given us a lot more than we know.”
Richard Coffman said he feels it is important for veterans to be able to get together on holidays such as Memorial Day.
“A lot of veterans have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Coffman said. “A lot us were just kids when we first shipped out. This allows veterans to get together and reminisce. It’s hard to explain the feeling that you get inside when you are thanked for your service.”
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com