Veterans honored on Monday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More than 100 veterans and their family members and friends turned out on a hot, sultry Monday morning in Greenville's Confederate Park to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The occasion was the fourth Annual Greenville Lions Memorial Day Celebration.

It was also a chance to recognize and honor the veterans of the county.

Some of the vets present, like Col. Earl Tisdale, donned their full uniforms for the event.

Others wore caps and hats expressing their pride in service. Disabled veteran Thurston Mosley's cap denoted the Purple Heart the soldier received from savage injuries endured in Vietnam.

Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, Ramona Martin, proudly wore her military medals on her patriotic red and white top.

&#8220It wasn't a popular thing to do back in those days, to serve, for men or women,” Martin, the only female veteran to take the Walk of Honor that day, recalled.

&#8220Now there is a call for veterans to wear their medals on special days like Fourth of July, Veterans' Day - and Memorial Day.”

Patriotic as well as country tunes performed by local musicians Becky Welch, Danny Kelley, Robert Layton and their friends helped set the mood for the star-spangled day, as the fragrant scent of grilled burgers and hot dogs wafted across the park.

Plenty of American flags, large and small, were on display as guest speaker Mike Manasco, a Montgomery attorney and General Counsel to State Treasurer Kay Ivey, shared his thoughts on Old Glory and his &#8220Words of A Patriot's Heart” with the attentive crowd.

Manasco, a Vietnam veteran who served in the First and Third Marine Air Wings and the Third Marine Amphibious Force, is the President of the General Richard Montgomery Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

&#8220Words like country, core, commitment, courage, creed – these are more than concepts, they are found deep within the hearts, minds and souls of patriot warriors; words to live by and die with,” he told the crowd.

&#8220This Memorial Day, let us all strive to remember the sacrifices of all those who have fought so valiantly to preserve our heritage of freedomŠso their efforts are not in vain.”

Mancuso said the American flags that surrounded him stood for peace, honor, truth and justice.

&#8220(As the flag) I am confident, arrogant, proud. My head is a little higher; my colors, a little truer - I bow to no oneŠI am saluted, worshipped, respected, revered, loved and feared. In my different forms, I have been in every battle of every war for more than 200 years.”

Mancuso said no flag could be put to greater use than as bandages for a wounded soldier or to be put &#8220in the trembling arms of a mother at the graveside of her fallen son.”

&#8220May we always remain loyal to our country, no matter what the cost. May I never forget I am an American, dedicated to the principles which make my country free.”

Also participating in the patriotic ceremony were Lions Dennis McCall and Herbert Morton; Rev. Allen Stephenson; soloist Patricia Ballew; Thurston Mosley, who presented the touching salute to those Missing in Action and held as Prisoners of War, and GMS and GHS Band Director Chris Pryor, who performed &#8220Taps.”

During Ballew's rendition of the National Anthem, audience members gazed upwards to watch a fly-over of a fully restored WW II Navy SNJ trainer, piloted by Travis Capps and owned by Dr. Woody Bartlett.

Following Manasco's speech, veterans from WWII through the Gulf Wars lined up - in some cases, with canes and wheelchairs – to take part in the second annual Veterans Walk of Honor. R.B. Stabler, a 90-year-old WW II veteran helped lead the way.

Ballew sang &#8220God Bless America” and attendees waved their flags to the music as the men and women made their walk.

Afterwards, many lined up to take advantage of the complimentary picnic meal prepared and served by members of the Greenville Lions Club.

The event proved such a success that Morton had to announce at 12:30 p.m. the club had run out of food.

&#8220I think it's been a good day. Several people have told me this has been their favorite in our four years of programs,” Morton said afterwards.

It was certainly an emotional time for many in attendance.

Martin, whose husband, Lt. Garry Martin of the Greenville PD, is also a military veteran, said it was the playing of &#8220Taps” that &#8220always gets to me.”

Francis Frakes, whose husband, WW II photo reconnaissance pilot, Col. Tut Frakes, was unable to attend due to health concerns, said she &#8220fought back tears nearly the whole way through.”

&#8220I'm sorry Tut couldn't be here. It was certainly a wonderful program for Memorial Day,” Frakes said.

Monday's event was also supported by Coca-Cola of Montgomery, Frito-Lay, Golden Flake, Nabisco, Zeigler, Colonial Bread, Wal-Mart, Southeast Alabama Gas and Pepsi-Cola.