PHILIPPI - Many joined with the Barbour County American Legion Post 44 Monday to honor and remember those who have sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom.
The local American Legion assembled and organized a program to pay homage to those who have lost their lives, are still missing, have been injured in battle and who have safely returned home. The program took place at the Mount Vernon Memorial Cemetery in Philippi.
Pastor John Dixon, a retired lieutenant with the United States Coast Guard, was the guest speaker for the Memorial Day program. Dixon currently serves as the pastor of Philippi Southern Baptist Church.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Melissa Toothman
Sergeant at Arms Ronald Clevenger places a memorial wreath Monday during the American Legion Post 44 program.
"Let us not merely honor the fallen on a single day, let us honor them every day by putting aside our own agendas, our own desires, our own comforts and looking out for ourselves, but let us look out for others as our heroes did before us," Dixon said. "Let us stand up for injustice and protect the rights, the gifts and the freedoms of both enemies foreign and domestic. ... I believe it was journalist Elmer Davis who said, 'America will only be the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave.'"
Dixon said that battle for freedom continues today.
"The reality of our freedom is that the battle rages on," Dixon said. "Only now, more often than not, it's not fought on the battlefield of foreign soil. More often than not, today, it is fought in our court systems, in the governmental houses of our politicians."
"It is taking place in the minds and in the misguided ambitions of those who have forgotten the very lives we are here today to honor," Dixon added. ... Because the battle rages on, you and I must continue the fight. ... The greatest honor that you and I can pay those who have given so much is to live for them, to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vein."
Dixon said all those who have fought for the nation's freedoms have paid a high price because freedom is not actually free.
"What good would it be for us to memorialize, to remember, to honor those who have paid such a high price, those who did the right thing that cost them everything, if we ourselves are not willing to follow in their footsteps, if we ourselves are not willing to continue the fight that they began," Dixon continued.
Dixon said Memorial Day is a day set aside in the United States to remember all the blessings, benefits and freedoms of those who live there are not free. Dixon said those freedoms cost "a great deal."
"I hope that this is not the only day that we extend thanks and that great appreciation," Dixon said.
He also said an estimated 1.4 million people have died in service to their country, 1.6 million have been wounded on the battlefield and 38,000 still are missing.
"When you consider the number of lives that were changed and the number of families that will never be the same, those numbers are truly overwhelming," Dixon said.
He said those estimates don't include the number of men and women who have returned home, but are never the same after the physical and mental implications of their sacrifice. Dixon said many of those men and women may have passed away after returning home.
"My heart has always gone out to those who did pay the ultimate sacrifice," Dixon said, "those who's bloodshed is on the field of battle. I cannot imagine the great courage, the bravery, that they displayed as they stood their ground, or in many cases even advanced forward against the enemy, knowing that their very lives could be called of them that day."
"It is that courage and that selfless bravery that we are here today to honor," Dixon added. "As I said, Memorial Day is a day that you and I need to be reminded that our freedoms are not free. They were purchased at a price, a very high price. No soldier, no sailor, no airman, no marine ever goes into battle wanting or desiring to die for their country, but every soldier, every sailor, every airman and every marine knows that might be the price that is asked of them. Yet they still go."
Dixon also said Memorial Day is an observance, not just of the past, but of the focus for the future.
"Memorial Day is more than a day to be reminded of the past," Dixon said. "It is a day that our past should shape and form and guide our future. It is a day that should remind us our fight for freedom is not over. If you and I fail to remember the past, if we fail to remember the high cost that has been paid, if we fail to learn and to follow the examples that have been shed in blood by others, then we will be in danger of losing all they fought for. We will be in danger of dishonoring those who have purchased these blessings and these freedoms with their very lives."