‘Paid the ultimate sacrifice’

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A group of approximately 50 people came out to Lakeview Cemetery on Monday to attend a Memorial Day service put together in honor of those who died in the line of duty in the U.S. armed forces.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9954 Commander Claude Tomlinson said, “It’s a privilege and an honor that we can at least come and honor our dead on Memorial Day. So many people get Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day mixed up. Today is a day of remembering our dead, and Veteran’s Day is a day to remember our ones that are alive. So, it is an honor to come out here today.”

Tomlinson said VFW Post 9954 has been coming to Lakeview Cemetery to remember fallen veterans on Memorial Day “for as long as I can remember. It’s been a long time.”

As Gary Lied, of the American Legion post in Keysville, played “Taps,” Don Westerlund, Past Fourth District Commander for the VFW, helped present a memorial wreath with Tom Hart, who will be American Legion Department of Virginia Vice Commander in July.

“This was the exciting part,” Westerlund said, gesturing to the crowd after the ceremony. “We wondered, a couple years in a row it looked like the crowd was diminishing some. Today I think it was fantastic support, probably the best we’ve had in the last two or three years, and it just makes us feel good that people still care about what we do.”

Tomlinson, a Lunenburg County native and member of the U.S. Army and the Virginia National Guard for 35 years and eight months, delivered the address at Monday’s ceremony.

“Pausing to remember and honor our American fallen service members is a practice dating back more than a hundred years,” he said to those attendance. “Since the dog days following the Civil War, humble Americans have gathered together every Memorial Day to remember and to pay tribute to all who have fought and selflessly surrendered the precious gift of life so that others could live free.”

Tomlinson noted that it is a struggle to find the appropriate words for the occasion.

“Each and every one of us owes a great debt to the courageous men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending and protecting our way of life,” he said. “While giving back to the extent they deserve is impossible, today we humbly attempt to do so by a way of remembrance.”

Near the close of his speech, he said, “If we truly want to honor the memory of our fallen soliders, then we must pledge our support to those who remain. Every one of us here today can have a hand in demanding our nation’s veterans receive the benefits, the entitlements they have earned and they deserve. I encourage you to pledge right now, today, to do just that. Get involved.”

Among those in attendance was Shirley Batte, Conductress and Historian of the VFW Post 9954 Auxiliary.

“I’m thrilled,” she said of being there at the ceremony. “My husband was a veteran. He belonged to this post. He was born in this county. He died and (was) buried in this county, right up on the hill. I’m a member of the Auxiliary, and I just thank the good Lord that I am able to get out and go and participate.”

Photos by Titus Mohler
Those attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Lakeview Cemetery on Monday bow their heads for a word of prayer.

VFW Post 9954 Commander Claude Tomlinson, right, who delivered the speech at the Memorial Day ceremony in Lakeview Cemetery on Monday, pauses for a photo with his granddaughter on left, Leigh Ann Winn, and his great-granddaughter, Paisleigh Parrish, who attended the ceremony.