Wesson honors veterans during May
Wesson folk took several occasions last month to celebrate and remember U.S. armed forces veterans who have served and continue to serve at home and abroad in wars and peacetime.
The occasions included a dinner at Wesson Baptist Church for the latest group of military personnel who contributed their labor to building a camp for kids with serious health issues in Copiah County, a tribute to fallen heroes of Vietnam War on Interstate 55 overpasses and a special wreath-laying ceremony.
Volunteers from Wesson-based Socks for Heroes, a veterans assistance organization, cooked and served southern fare at a dinner for more than 60 airmen from Puerto Rico stationed at Crystal Springs to help build Camp Kamessa on 326 acres in Copiah County to serve children with cancer, sickle cell and other serious illnesses, kids in foster care and adults with special needs. They are the most recent of the military groups that have come from dozens of states, as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, to donate more than $6 million worth of free labor to get the job done. Air Force Reservists who are gaining construction skills as they work at the developing camp, have been at the forefront of construction.
Crowds poured onto area Interstate 55 overpasses to salute war heroes honored on the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall that was being escorted by Mississippi-based Patriot Guard motorcyclists along the thoroughfare from Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to be displayed a Jackson before continuing its trip to Washington, DC, for Memorial Day. The Florida-based traveling wall is 3/5 scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, and is accompanied by the “Some Gave All” 9/11 Tribute. The Patriot Guard motorcycle escort included state law enforcement officers and many veterans.
Wesson Garden Club (WGC) and American Legion Drane-Prine Post #79 members led a pre-Memorial Day weekend wreath lay ceremony at the Blue Star Memorial Marker on Highway 51 at the four-way stop coming into town. Among guests were Wesson Alderman Mike King, American Legion Department of Mississippi Finance Officer and Commander of Drane-Prine Post #79 Bobby Thornton, Sarah Lassiter, Mississippi American Legion Auxiliary District Seven Director and Sharon Langley, President of Drane-Prine Auxiliary Unit #79 as well as WSG and Legion members and townspeople. The National Council of State Garden Clubs (now National Garden Clubs, Inc.) started the Blue Star Highway system to remember and honor veterans in 1945.
The wreath-laying ceremony included remarks by WGC and American Legion members about the significance of Memorial Day, Taps played by Duval Salvant, band director at Wesson Attendance Center, and prayer.
"It is a somber day, but it is also a day of thanksgiving for the sacrifices made by these brave men and women" said WGC's Debbie Smith. WGC member Debbie Smith. "In remembering the brave men and women who gave it all, we place a Memorial Wreath at our Blue Star Highway Marker to remind us of their bravery and their fight for freedom for the greatest country in the world."
"Throughout this Memorial Day weekend, let us reflect as a nation, on the price of freedom and the many soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors’ lives that were lost to protect it," WGC's Joy Philips implored.
For lack of the real thing, they were only stickers for clothing, but Wesson Garden Club members still appropriately reminded folk at the Blue Star Marker wreath-laying about an important symbol worn to honor military service personnel: poppies.
After World War I, the little red flowers flourished in Europe, blooming above the battle graves because the ground soil had been churned and dug up. The dormant seeds had been beneath the ground and needed cultivation to make them grow.
In 1918, Moina Michael popularized the idea of wearing a poppy flower in memory war dead, inspired by "In Flanders Fields," a poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae.
. . . .the blood of heroes never dies But lends a luster to the red Of the flower that blooms above the dead In Flanders Field
Michael later started a campaign to adopt the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice. The American Legion family passes out paper poppies on Memorial Day and throughout the year to raise funds for veterans. Poppies have a long history of being used to honor the dead, having roots in Greek and Roman mythology.