It started with the solemn tolling of bells, followed by lines of silent marchers holding aloft the names of Grayson Countians who had lost their lives in battles ranging back to the Revolutionary War.
Crowds braved the heat and humidity Saturday, May 26, to honor those soldiers during the annual Memorial Day parade along Leitchfield’s South Main Street.
As the bells pealed, the marchers filed into the parking lot of The Centre on Main, with many then lining up to attend the ceremonies inside.
County Judge Executive Gary Logsdon said the parade proved the soldiers were “gone but not forgotten.
“Standing there watching as those names came in the door is humbling,” he said. “That’s what it’s about — freedom. Remembering them … is a choice.”
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-2nd District, compared the power of the parade to the power of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., with its simple etchings of the names of fallen soldiers. It is, he noted, one of the most-visited sites in Washington.
“I don’t think there’s a way to honor a veteran any more than carrying their name down the street,” Guthrie said. “It is something we need to do. Those who sacrificed for us need to be remembered.”
Leitchfield Mayor William Thomason read a list of the veterans who had died within the last year, each name marked by the tolling of bells.
The ceremony’s main speaker, retired Army Maj. Cleo C. Hogan Jr., noted those whose names had been carried in the parade gave their lives both in defense of this nation and in defense of freedom.
“Sadly, we too often take our freedoms for granted,” Hogan, a Vietnam War veteran, said. “They have not been free. … Freedom is a continuing process. Each generation is charged with the responsibility of protecting our freedom and passing it on to the next generation.”
As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, Hogan received two Silver Stars for Valor, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for Valor. An Army Ranger, he also received the Combat Infantryman Badge and several other decorations and awards. He also served in the United Nations Command in Seoul, Korea.
He noted that there have been 1.4 million Americans in all our history who have “made that supreme sacrifice,” giving their lives for their nation.
“May they rest in peace with the satisfaction of a job very well done,” he said.