Mount Airy resident Mary Snow’s son David W. Snow was killed while serving in operation “Enduring Freedom.”
He was 37 years old, with a wife and daughters aged 15 years and 18 months, she said. “It was August 12, 2003.”
Snow and fellow “Gold Star Mothers” whose children died fighting for this country were recognized at the beginning of a Memorial Day Service at the city war memorial on Monday.
“It’s just a blessing that they do this every year. I greatly appreciate it,” she said of the service. “It was very touching.”
During his remarks, Mayor David Rowe said, “History has taught us, our hearts remind us, that freedom is not free. We will ensure your sacrifice will never be in vain.”
Several local events were held Monday to honor those who paid for freedom with their lives.
A service was held at North Surry High School which was hosted by the Junior ROTC program.
Students from Flat Rock Elementary, Gentry Middle and Meadowview Middle schools traveled to the high school, a total of about 1,700 students.
Paratroopers from the All Veterans Group had been scheduled to make landing on the football field as part of the program, but that portion was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions in Fayetteville from tropical depression Bonnie.
With the students attending school on the holiday due to a snow makeup day, Sonia Dickerson, communications director for Surry County Schools, said, “We have learned that when we are in school, the kids learn so much about Memorial Day. They truly get an understanding about what Memorial Day means.”
Cadet Lt. Col. Rebecca Bowes, who is North Surry JROTC’s commander, emceed the program, which began with a moment of silence for Brady Sizemore, a Gentry Middle School student who passed away over the weekend.
The school event honored service members through singing and musical performances which included a 1987 North Surry high graduate, Master Sergeant Christian Hinkle, who is currently a member of the U.S. Army band.
The North Surry choir sang “Lord, Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly,” and soloist Nicole McMillan performed Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”
Students from each school read winning essays based on the theme “What Memorial Day Means To Me.”
Mason Morgan said, “I am so thankful for those who fought. My country is so lucky for the veterans that served.”
Paige Sizemore read the essay her brother Brady had written.
“Veterans don’t get treated like they should,” Brady Sizemore had written. “Try to find a veteran and thank them.”
Garret Gammons, a Meadowview Magnet student, mentioned in his essay that he was thankful because “I know every night I go to sleep without worrying about war.”
Caleb Cooke, a North Surry student, also read from his winning essay.
In addition to the music and special remarks, the Junior ROTC members raised the flags to half-mast while Hinkle played Taps, and the ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute.
The city service also featured a flag raising, Taps and a 21-gun salute by the VFW Memorial Honor Guard Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain Posts.
The flags were raised by the city Honor Guard.
Chaplain Dennis Barnette, of the Mount Airy Fire Department, delivered an invocation.
Elizabeth Martin sang the National Anthem and led a sing-along of “God Bless America.”
Monroe Donathan, who is retired of the U.S. Air Force Intelligence Command with more than 20 years of service, was the guest speaker.
Donathan shared stories of his own loved ones who died while in service to the country, including a nephew who headed to the Vietnam conflict with the feeling like he wouldn’t return home.
“He did come home. In a coffin,” Donathan said. “It was his duty to go. He understood that.”
The guest speaker also recalled a cousin who “also knew in his heart of hearts he wouldn’t be coming home.” Despite that feeling, “he went and he fought and he paid.”
Donathan made special mention of police, sheriff’s deputies and emergency response personnel who “everyday they go out and protect our lives.”
He asked the audience, “How many times have you walked up to a deputy sheriff and said thank you? Or our own Johnny Shelton,” he said, referring to the county EMS director.
“He doesn’t know what a good night’s sleep is,” he said. “They have to do it because it’s their job. Johnny does it with honor and dignity.”
John Bradley, of Mount Airy, brought his four children to the event.
“I’m glad for my kids to be able to learn about people who have sacrificed so they could have freedom,” he said. “It makes me proud to come to a place where they still talk about God. I’m proud to be a resident of Mount Airy.”
Rowe, who is also a veteran, expressed pride in the city’s residents while issuing a proclamation. “We live in a very tumultuous time,” he stated. “I find myself wondering if the American spirit is still alive. As I look around today, I know the answer is a resounding yes.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.