By Curtis Carden
“We cannot allow Memorial Day to lose its meaning.”
These passionate words from Rev. Rusty Wishon of Fishery Community Church summed up the thoughts of many during a Memorial Day service hosted by the town of Erwin at the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday, May 29.
Wishon, who served over 25 years in the military, was the guest speaker for the event and gave thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom.
“Sacrifice is a necessary condition to have freedom,” Wishon said. “We have freedom to say and do whatever we want, thanks to those who gave their lives. It is our job to live our lives in a way to honor those who sacrificed for us.”
During his speech, Wishon shared the story of Master Sergeant Ned Lyle, from Erwin, who was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in the Korean War.
“Master Sergeant Lyle distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Mundung-ni, Korea, on 26 Aug. 1951,” Wishon read from a report issued of the Military Times’ Hall of Valor website. “On that date, Company F was subjected to a devastating barrage of enemy mortar and artillery fire and was forced to begin a limited withdrawal. In this action two platoon leaders became casualties and Sergeant Lyle promptly took charge of both platoons. He rapidly reorganized the men in order to meet the oncoming enemy, who now began to subject them to a heavy volume of fire. When the close proximity of the numerically superior hostile troops threatened the small friendly force with annihilation, Sergeant Lyle, with utter disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself to the enemy fire in order to draw it away from the wounded.”
Wishon continued the story, describing of Lyle’s “deadly accurate fire” that helped back up the enemy and of his successful use of a machine gun post with his bayonet.
That’s just one of the many stories that come from war, Wishon said.
“That’s a Unicoi County man,” he added. “There’s many here today who would do the same thing that Mr. Lyle did. I’m proud to be from an area like Unicoi County, where we can spend the day honoring our veterans.”
Allen Foster and members of Fishery Community Church also brought attendants to their feet with a rendition of “Proud to be an American.”
While Sunday was a time for remembering those who passed away, veteran Ray Tipton paid homage to soldiers who are currently missing in action’ (M.I.A.) by giving a speech. During Tipton’s speech, local veteran Charles King placed a commemorative mat on the chair of the park’s MIA memorial.
The honor guard, led by Captain Ron Arnold with the Erwin Police Department, provided a gun salute, the playing of trumpets and raised the American flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Bill Hensley, who chairs the county’s veterans committee, gave thanks for the support for the park from community members.
County Road Superintendent Terry Haynes provided the closing remarks at the event.
Service members who lost their lives during duty have their name featured on a monument in the center of the roofing at the park. The Mary Patton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a special red, white and blue wreath beside this piece during Sunday’s event.
In honor of Memorial Day, The Erwin Record would like to remember those who gave their life by recognizing each name included on the monument:
• World War I: Garrett Edwards, Hobert Harris, Lina McCurry, William M. Moore, James H. Price, John Green, William A. Jones, Paul Masters, Douglas Penland and James W. Teague.
• World War II: Harm K. Adams, Robert Bailey, Charles B. Baxter, Bob Beam, Oscar J. Bennett, Robert L. Bennett, Bernard Chapman, Curtis D. Clark, Hubert D. Copp, Gus Cousin, Charles E. Duncan, Dallas P. Edmond, Mills Edmunds, Plen Edwards, Kelley L. Epley, Jr., Paul E. Farnor, James H. Foster, William T. Gilbert, Dwight L. Guinn, Woodward Harris, Elmer C. Harvey, Donald Hensley, Luther E. Hensley, Orville F. Hensley, Fred B. Howell, Howard W. Hurt, Howard Huskins, Bruce Johnson, Dwight L. Keever, Donald C. Keplinger, William A. Ledford, Robert E. Martin, Harley G. Masters, Deanah R. McCurry, Ralph C. McIntosh, Reid C. McInturff, Thomas S. McInturff, Joseph P. McLaughlin, Johnie J. Meadows, Robert N. Moon, Rufus S. Moore, Jr., Lee R. Morgan, James R. Nichols, William F. Niemeyer, Ivan A. Osborne, Glen W. Pack, Milliard F. Parsley, Jr., Clark Peterson, Hugh P. Prince, Lester L. Pulley, Walter L. Rice, Jr., Earl D. Ryburn, Simon P. Shelton, Clarence C. Stockton, Eugene H. Street, James E. Strickland, Jr., Leonard W. Taylor, Carroll B. Tilson, Roy C. Tinker, Lattie Tipton, Jack M. Turner, Edward M. Vogel, Hugh L. Waldrop, Marvin L. Williams, Paul Williams, Jack Wilson, Ralph Wilson and Clyde R. Wishon.
• Korean War: Lewis Ray Callahan, Vernon C. Hardin, Albert C. May, Cecil Poore.
• Vietnam War: Richard W. Bannister, James J. Britt, Donald R. Cook, David L. Edney, Donald L. Grubb, Bobby G. Haynes, Doyle Holcomb, Douglas L. Jones, Johnny W. Ogle, Bobby J. Shelton, Michael Tolley, Allen E. White and Eugene Wilson.
• County soldiers who passed away during service in the Middle East were Mark O. Edwards, who served in Iraq, and Benjamin D. White, who served in Afghanistan.