Large Crowd Attends Annual Memorial Day Ceremony In Marianna
By Sid Riley
National Patriotism was alive and well in Marianna at the 8:00 AM Memorial Day Ceremony which was held on the Court House lawn. A large crowd of veterans, retired military, DAV, VFW and American Legion members, and patriotic citizens gathered to pay homage to the brave service men of past and present conflicts who lost their lives defending our nation.
The event was conducted by Enoch Williams, Commander of Jackson County Chapter #22 of the Disabled American Veterans. He welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone for their patriotism. The invocation was delivered by Chaplain Fred Fitzgerald, USMC (Retired). Then came the Posting of the Colors, which was accomplished by the local unit of the Buffalo Soldiers paraded smartly to the center and placed flags at the podium.
Next Ms. Donna Barber and Ms. Laura Tice individually sang and led the crowd in singing patriotic songs, “My Country Tis of Thee” and “America”. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Mr. Gene Peacock.
Then came a very special element of the ceremony. Forty-one years ago, on a battlefield in Viet Nam, Sgt. Reuben Merrett, Jr. was wounded in combat. Due to the confusion of the Viet Nam situation, and administrative shortcomings, Sgt. Merrett was never awarded the Purple Heart Medal. This error was rectified during the Memorial Day Ceremony as Lt. Col. Coennie Woods formally presented the medal to Sgt. Merrett, and recognized his service to country.
Wreaths were placed at the two war monuments which are located on the north lawn of the Court House. These were placed by an honor guard from the VFW Post 1206,and American Legion Post 241.
The featured speaker for the ceremony was USAF Lt. Col Coennie Woods, Retired, who was raised in Jackson County as Coennie Harman, graduated from Chipola in 1976, and went on to earn her commission and became a career officer with a distinguished career in the Air Force. She delivered a tribute to all of the military services, recognized the bravery and contribution of many units who served in conflicts, and honored those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Within her address she included a special, thoughtful prayer for the fallen heroes of our nation.
After her meaningful address, Commander Enoch Williams made several special presentations. The first was made to the featured speaker, Col. Woods, in recognition of her participation in the ceremony, then a presentation was made to Royce Reagan for the assistance he has given the DAV.
Benediction was delivered by Chaplain Fitzgerald, and taps was played by Mr. Bill Sellers. Commander Williams then recognized Sarah Moody, who is the current Little Miss Poppy, as he made closing remarks, thanking everyone for coming.
Around the county several other observances took place which honored the fallen military heroes of our past. In Graceville, in a sunrise observance, flags were placed on all of the graves of deceased veterans by American Legion Post #42. At the Orange Hill cemetery in Marianna, youth from Bethel Star Missionary Church placed symbolic flags on the graves of fallen military heroes.
Across the nation it seemed that the observances were somehow more meaningful this year.