By Keith Whitson
I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day holiday. As I think on this column and the holiday at hand, I am truly grateful for the many dedicated men and women who have fought or given their lives in the line of war for the freedom I have to put my thoughts in words here. Our freedoms are nothing to be taken for granted and certainly came with a cost.
I am thankful for the freedom of press. I am thankful for the freedom of worship and to live and believe as I do. We are so blessed to live as free as we do.
I have never known any other conditions. I have never known fear of fighting in war. My generation missed the draft. I had four years of AFJROTC at Unicoi County High School and learned many wonderful leadership and disciplinary values that I still carry with me today. While I never enlisted, I have the utmost respect for those who did.
Memorial Day occurs on the final Monday in May of each year to remember men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. It originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
Not to take away anything from our military heroes or from Memorial Day, but it got me to thinking. I asked myself what I would be remembered for. As I reflect back on those that I have worked with, I remember traits about each.
For those who were writers, you can research past articles and their words live on. They researched the stories of the time and composed words to paint readers a picture of the situations affecting them each week.
We have bound copies at the office dating back to the 1950s. I love to look through the old newspapers and see the changes that have taken place. There are changes in prices and the offerings in businesses that were found in Erwin. They faced their struggles, just as those of today. I scan the headlines and am drawn into the articles reflecting on the news of the time.
For those included in this newspaper’s rich history and for those who wrote the articles, the words have become a memorial, locked into the history of this community. Sometimes the headlines weren’t flowery or glorious, but they tried to relay the news and happenings to their many loyal readers.
It reminded me that the way we live our daily lives will be the memorial we are remembered for. Although many people may live their entire lives and never have their name printed in this newspaper, they are still reaching many by their influence on them – good or bad.
From teachers, ministers, coworkers, community leaders and friends, I can hear a name and automatically thoughts come to mind. That is how I remember that person. That is what becomes immortalized as their memorial. The memories live on far beyond the individual.
In years to come, as generations after me are reflecting back through the bound editions of The Erwin Record, they will be asking themselves who was Keith Whitson. If they should take the time to read over some of my columns, I hope they find them encouraging, funny at times, as well as some uplifting and informative.
I have had the privilege of being involved in many of our fine local civic clubs, a wonderful church and this newspaper. May I be remembered as someone who was fair to work for, honest in dealings, a good friend to many, a hard worker and a good steward of this newspaper.
Your memories with family and friends on this holiday will make memorials for years to come. We owe all of this to the great country we live in and those who have fought to attain and keep it for our generation.
As for me, any holiday is a good one if I can get the day or even part of it off. In newspapers, we rarely know a true holiday because the news still has to go out and our work still has to be done. It is amazing how many fall on Monday, which is our busiest day.
While most at this office are off for the day, a few of us still come in an out during a holiday. We can work at a more leisurely pace and don’t have to answer the telephone or open the front door.
As I write this, I remember those who we honor on this holiday.