By SHERRY DIGMON
Organizers of the Memorial Day ceremony at Atmore City Hall Monday morning didn’t put out enough chairs or print enough programs for everyone. And it was a good problem to have.
VFW 7016 Commander Billy Gates said that was on him, but he did everything according to past history. However, this year, history didn’t repeat itself as more folks than usual turned out for the annual ceremony coordinated by VFW Post 7016 and by American Legion Post 90.
In addition to Gates, others on the program included Mayor Jim Staff; American Legion Commander Dave Graham; VFW Chaplain Paul Harrison; National Anthem by Reed Adams and Randall Adams; Memorial Roll Call by Harold Madison, Lloyd Albritton, Joel Makety, Ronnie Albritton, James Biggs; Steve Reynolds and the Fire Team.
Guest speaker was Atmore native Greg Turberville, who retired from the U.S. Army as a highly decorated Chief Warrant Officer 5. This was not Turberville’s first time to be the Memorial Day keynote speaker. He spoke two years ago, and he mentioned that in his remarks. However, the invitation to speak again was not one he could refuse – not because of himself, but because of others. Sometimes gesturing to the Veterans Monument near him, Turberville spoke of the names on monuments across the country – names of those who gave all in service to their county.
From Turberville’s speech:
“Every time I am invited to speak on behalf of others, at gatherings just such as this, I am cautioned not to get emotional. For me that is a very difficult caution to voluntarily heed in light of why we are here today. In my mind’s eye, I see myself as just a boy, a survivor, one who is becoming ever more conscious and humbled at the reality of the sacrifices that preserve the blessings I enjoy today. You see, none of us would be here in this condition today were it not for the willing sacrifice of these brave souls.
“Today in Atmore, Alabama would NOT be possible otherwise. This realization gives me great emotion. Even greater emotion when in moments of inner reflection I can see the faces, I can hear the voices and I can relive the moments spent with so many friends, fellow warriors and countless others whose names share space on these granite monuments all across America.
“You see, I didn’t ask to be here. But I do have to say thank you, Mr. Gates, for asking me to be here. When he called and asked if I would consider it, I had no choice other than to accept. The fact of the matter is I do have to be here. As their survivor, I have to be here for them. We all do, we cannot forget; lest we lose why we are still here as a Republic today.
“You know, in military service we don’t get a choice of which orders to follow. We are given a mission and expected to execute without question. These heroes died while in pursuit of their assigned mission. They had to be there. I have to be here for them.”