Asheville Memorial Day Ceremony
People gathered to attend Memorial Day ceremonies across the mountains today, honoring fallen veterans and serving as a reminder that Memorial Day is about much more than a three-day weekend.
One of the largest was held this afternoon in downtown Asheville, where a few hundred people gathered in Pack Square Park.
The event was emceed by News 13's Larry Blunt, and Mayor Terry Bellamy gave the keynote speech at her final Memorial Day ceremony as mayor.
"It's very humbling. I've come to every ceremony we've had in our community for Memorial Day. I've watched families weep, I've watched mothers talk about their sons. It's very heartfelt for me as mayor to be able to thank them for their child's service, as well as to talk to our community about how important it is to honor and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice."
The choir from Mayor Bellamy's church--Tried Stone Missionary Baptist--delivered stirring renditions of "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful" between the speeches and presenations. Active members from all of the military's branches were on hand for the ceremony, and veterans of all ages also joined the crowd.
Not all veterans were happy with the turnout. Walter Robertson and Michael Leary served together in Vietnam, and while both enjoyed the ceremony, they felt that more could be done to respect our nation's veterans.
"It's comforting. But at the same time, a lot more people should have been here," said Leary. "This country is the way it is because of the veteran. I think it's the most important part of the community, the veterans. We seem to be left behind. Once something's accomplished, they throw us by the side and say 'we'll call you when we need you'. And that's not the way it should be, we should be more respected than we are."
Robertson praised veterans' programs, but was disappointed by the number of people at the ceremony.
"As a Vietnam veteran, when we came back, we were shunned. Recognizing the Iraq and Afghanistan war vets is great thing, but there's still a lot to be done for us. People that don't know what a vet goes through, what he has to deal with in everyday life to reestablish himself. But it's great that people are starting to recognize. It's never too late. But for those of us not here, it is too late. So I appreciate what they're doing today, and I'm very glad to see the few that are out here, but it should be more, because we fought for their freedom, and they're still doing it every day."
Families lined the park throughout the ceremony. Matthew and Susan Dotson-Smith attended with their daughter, Maya. They've tried to teach her about the sacrifice the men and women of our armed forces make by attending events like this.
"I think the best way to show children to honor veterans is to be an example for your kids. If you show the respect our fallen veterans deserve, then the children will learn and will do that as adults," said Matthew Dotson-Smith.