White Hall honors fallen soldiers with ceremony

United States Army Col. David L. Musgrave, commander of the Pine Bluff Arsenal, urged those attending the White Hall Memorial Day Program on Monday morning to focus on the dedication to compassion and to life of the nation’s fallen soldiers.

Speaking under a large tent on the grounds of the White Hall History Museum, Musgrave reminded the audience not to define the nation’s fallen servicemen and servicewomen by the wars they fought and died in but instead by their determination to protect the American people.

“They gave their all for their country and reflected the military values of loyalty, duty, respect, integrity and personal courage,” Musgrave said. “They have earned our undying gratitude for paying the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. On Memorial Day we remember those who fought and died in every conflict from the Civil War to Afghanistan. The many military cemeteries both here at home and around the world remind us that freedom is not free.”

Musgrave asked all veterans in attendance to stand and they were vigorously applauded in a standing ovation.

“We owe them our service, our optimism and our thanks,” Musgrave said. “We owe them our lives.”

Musgrave said that generations of Americans have answered their nation’s call, much in the same manner that the prophet Isaiah answered the call of God.

“When God asked, who shall I send?, it was Isaiah who answered: Here I am, send me,” Musgrave said.

Musgrave said the selection of the last Monday in May as the date of Memorial Day is fitting.

“The beginning of summer is a fitting time to honor our fallen servicemen and -women,” Musgrave said. “It is a time of happiness and life. As we celebrate liberty, love and life, let us remember those who gave their all and support their families.”

Musgrave announced that he would soon be stepping down from his command and returning to Washington, D.C., for a new assignment.

“My wife and I cannot express how grateful we are for the warmth and friendship that you have given us,” Musgrave said. “I will always remember with fondness our time in the Natural State. White Hall has a long tradition and a rich heritage of supporting our military and we thank you.”

Former Jefferson County Sheriff Boe Fontaine read the names of White Hall natives who were killed or are missing in action.

“I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death,” Fontaine said, reading excerpts from Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous 1962 West Point speech titled ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’

“The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.”

As the 106th Army Band played Amazing Grace, Navy veteran Joe Bland, accompanied by White Hall High School ROTC Cadets Ben Guyer and Billy Corley, placed a memorial wreath at the White Hall Veterans Memorial.

Former Jefferson County Judge Jack Jones read the poem ‘Freedom is not Free’ by Kelly Strong, noting that his father served in World War II, his stepfather in the Korean War and his younger brother in the Vietnam War.

“As I prepared for this I came to realize that this would not be as easy as I first thought,” Jones said. “As I read through the poem I became emotional. My father served in World War II and died at an early age. My mother remarried and her husband was a veteran of the Korean War. As a little boy I remember him telling my uncle about his difficult experiences during the war.”

A three-volley salute was conducted by the Jefferson County Civil War Re-enactors, under the command of Guy Taylor.

The solemn event concluded with the playing of Taps by trumpeter Richard Bailey.