Memorial Day 2023 at the Pickens County Courthouse

Article and Photographs by KAREN BREWER, Publisher & Editor, The Christian View magazine

A ceremony to honor all Americans who have died in service to our country was held at the Pickens County Courthouse the morning of Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2023.

American Legion Pickens Post 11 Commander Terry Gromlovits welcomed those in attendance. “Good morning,” he said, “those who came to our annual Memorial Day celebration in honor of all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the United States of America.”

Cody Acker, Lane Byers, Zeb James, and Samantha Mitchell, members of the Color Guard from the Pickens High School Army JROTC, presented the colors. 

Paul and Raechel Fredrickson played the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Skylar Church, a member of the Pickens High School Army JROTC, then read the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

“We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

“We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.”

Gromlovits then introduced the guest speaker, John L. Rainville, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S Army (retired) and Senior Army Instructor of the Pickens High School Army JROTC, who delivered the Memorial Day address.

“Ladies and gentlemen, members of the American Legion Post 11, 158 years ago, at the end of the Civil War, residents of Pickens stood not too far from here and must have asked themselves, “What happened to my country?  How can things possibly get better?”

“Veterans Day in November is a day to honor those who have served in our military.  Last week’s Armed Forces Day is to honor those currently serving in our uniform.  Memorial Day was started in 1866 and is the day we set aside to honor all our war dead – the service member, the civilians caught in the cross fire, and the civil servant supporting the war effort.  Today, we remember all their sacrifices, whether they be the service members killed in the mountains of a far off land, the merchant mariners drowned in a torpedo attack, the firefighters who went into the World Trade Center, or the ordinary person, like my high school classmate Susan Blair, who went to work in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

“Today is our opportunity for giving thanks for our many blessings, taking inventory of what is in our ability to influence, and establishing resolve to take action. 

“For what do we give thanks? Since the Civil War, approximately 1.2 million people have died to establish and maintain our liberties in this beautiful country. How many is 1.2 million?  If 1.2 million people stood shoulder to shoulder, they would reach from here to Mobile, Alabama, or Columbus, Ohio. But even with all the problems our nation is facing today, would we really choose to live anywhere else?  Do we conduct ourselves as citizens that deserve the blessings that have been purchased in blood? I ask everyone here to take a moment in your day to reflect on all the good things we enjoy in our country, and give thanks for the sacrifice of all those lives spent in the defense of liberty.

“Today, we should take inventory of what we can influence around us. When I was an active infantry officer, we used to mark on a map each unit’s area of operations.  In this area, the commander was responsible for military actions.  Outside of the area of operations was the area of interest, which identified features that could come to bear on the area of operations.  In today’s culture of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, looking at what is going on in other parts of the country can become overwhelming and give us a sense of despair. We confuse things that are outside our area of interest as things that are in our area of operations. But, today, we have an opportunity to take inventory and assess what we can actually control. What is our personal area of operations? I cannot control what is happening at our border with Mexico, but I can control who I choose to vote for, based on each candidate’s position on national security.  I cannot control the teachers in other states who use their classroom to proselytize their atheistic dogma that counters the values and belief system taught by students’ parents and their churches.  However, I can attend a school board meeting here in Pickens to address my concerns with those who are responsible for what goes on in our public schools. We have celebrities and politicians who are trying desperately to blur the lines between fact and fantasy. They have pushed a narrative that ‘truth’ is no longer an objective account of facts, but is a delusion of something that someone really wishes to be. I cannot control their free speech, but I can take the time to engage with discussions with the young people around me to help them navigate this strange period in our history, which seems to be riddled with iconoclasm. I can’t save the world, but I can do little things for the people around me to make my community a better place.

“Finally, I ask each of us, sometime today, to take a moment for quiet introspection, to ask ourselves, ‘What should I do to deserve what I have?’  Even the poorest in this country live a far better lifestyle that the majority of the world.  Am I living my life in a way that would make that line of heroic Americans from here to Mobile or Columbus say that their sacrifice was worth it? Is this the country, and the way I live my life, what they died for? Do we take their sacrifice for granted? For many of us here today, the time for our ability to serve in our Armed Forces has passed, but that does not absolve us from continuing to support and defend our Constitution and our unique American culture and way of life. Today, at the base of the steps of this courthouse, bearing the colors of our nation and state are the next generation. They may or may not choose to serve in our Armed Forces, but we owe it to them to do our part to make this country the best it can be, and to honor those who died it its defense, that their sacrifice was not in vain. Today, we should each resolve to find a way in which we can take an active part in our community, perhaps joining a civic organization, such as the American Legion, the Lions, or the Moose. We can start volunteering at a food pantry, or join a church, and, through it, do good work. We can find and dedicate time with a youth program that encourages them to do something other than stare at a phone.

“Today, we reflect on the liberties we enjoy, purchased at a steep price. We remember and thank those who died for our freedoms, we take stock of what is within our ability to change, and we resolve to take action to make our country a better place for the next generation. By doing so, we honor the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price for our country. Thank you.”

The ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps” by Paul Fredrickson.

The Pickens County Courthouse in the county seat of Pickens, South Carolina on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2023.  (Photograph by Karen Brewer, Publisher & Editor)