Atmore native Greg Turberville to deliver Monday’s Memorial Day address
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Memorial Day, the day set aside each year for remembrance and commemoration of the men and women who have given their lives in service to the nation, has become America’s forgotten holiday. And at least one local veteran isn’t happy about it.
The local memorial gathering, co-sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7016 and American Legion Post 90, both of Atmore, will take place at 9 a.m. next Monday, May 31, at city hall’s monument to veterans. The anticipated turnout is anybody’s guess, said Billy Gates, commander of the local VFW post.
“I have no clue what kind of crowd we’ll have,” Gates said. “The traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day.”
The biggest culprit, he said, is the changing of the federal holiday in order to create a three-day weekend. For many years Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30. It is now observed on the last Monday in May, and crowds have become thinner and thinner over the years.
“I recently overheard someone say that they would be glad when Memorial Day came, because that’s the day that had been set aside to mark the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation,” noted the VFW post commander. “And that person actually believed it.”
Gates added that other misconceptions have also played a role in lessening the importance of Memorial Day.
“Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, not just those fallen in service to our country,” he said. “Also, there are many people, even including some veterans, who confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, and vice-versa.”
This year’s scheduled guest speaker is Atmore native Greg Turberville, who retired from the U.S. Army as a highly decorated Chief Warrant Officer 5. Turberville, an Apache attack helicopter pilot, earned the Army’s “Top Gun” designation.
It will be a special homecoming for the retired veteran, who now lives in Enterprise.
“He’s a hometown boy, and he spoke when we dedicated the monument, years ago,” Gates pointed out. “I finally talked him into coming back. He’s a hero to me. He is a top gun in aviation, and he’s been in every deployment around, except Vietnam. He was in Iraq, Afghanistan, other theaters, but he wasn’t old enough for Vietnam.”
The Post 7016 commander added that he doesn’t expect any expressions of appreciation for his military service, especially on Memorial Day, even though such expressions have become customary.
“As a war veteran, I desire no honor or recognition bestowed upon me on this day,” he explained. “My only desire is to honor the memories of my fallen comrades in arms. They are more than just names on a monument.”
Gates encouraged those who do attend Monday’s observance to bring their lawn chairs, just in case the provided seating isn’t enough.
“We’ll have chairs set up, but we could have a big enough crowd that all of them are taken,” he said. “You never know.”