by William Holloman
A Sunday afternoon Memorial Day crowd at Maplewood Cemetery paid tribute to the attending family of a fallen soldier killed during training in California. They fought back emotions kindled when Mount Olive Mayor Joe Scott addressed the group at the event.
The Memorial Day event is sponsored here annually by the Town of Mount Olive, and the local chapters of the VFW and American Legion.
This year tribute was paid to the family of Pinehurst native Captain Samuel Phillips, who was one of four killed in a helicopter crash during training in California last month.
The traditional wreath was placed with tributes from the Mount Olive Police Department Honor Guard and the standing-by Mount Olive Fire Department ladder truck proudly flying the nation’s flag.
“They still speak to us,” said Mayor Scott. “If you listen quietly you can hear them. You remember their voices from conversations you’ve had before. They have their last measure of devotion to this nation. And, even if you are not a Gold Star family member, a battle buddy, friend or relative of a fallen hero, all you have to do is look around you 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.”
He said that regardless of the place or the war fought, the purity of their sacrifice is without question.
“Young men and women lost their lives to make the freedom of others possible,” he said.
Mayor Scott noted that more than a million U.S. men and women had their lives cut short while fighting in wars since the American Revolution.
He noted specific incidents of World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and recent conflicts with terrorism.
“The heroes that we remember today are not exclusive to any race, gender, or religion. They are a diverse group, wedded to the common principle that America is a nation worth dying for,” said Mayor Scott.
In recognizing the family of Captain Samuel Phillips, Mayor Scott said, “Not all of the heroes died because of enemy gunfire. Military service sometimes requires dangerous risks, even when its members are far from a combat zone.
“Certainly the four Marines who entered a CH-53E Super Stallion last month during a training exercise in Southern California did not expect it to be their final mission. Yet, it was.”
He went on to explain all four of those Marines, in their twenties and thirties, died for this country as result of that helicopter crash.
He said Phillips had joined the Marine Corps in August 2013.
Mayor Scott told the Memorial Day gathering and the family of that fallen Marine, “They will forever be in our hearts and minds. Not just these Marines, but all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation.”
He went on to say, “We also extend our gratitude and support to a group that nobody wants to join: Gold Star families.
“As we observe Memorial Day every year, these families remember their fallen loved ones every day,” he said.
Mayor Scott said that Gold Star mothers and fathers and spouses and siblings “still hear the voices of those they lost.”
He said it is up to us to hear the voices of these families, offer our support and express out highest gratitude.
“Whether the people we remember served in World War I or II, Korea, Vietnam or in the wars on terrorism, we thank you for the freedom that you have given us. We are here because of you,” said Mayor Scott.
He closed in saying, “God bless you all, God bless America, and God bless our fallen heroes.”