Veterans and residents gathered on Memorial Day in Leesburg Monday to remember those who lost their lives in service to their country.
LEESBURG -- American Legion Post 182 Commander Pat Walsh told a Memorial Day crowd Monday another name had been added to the honor roll of fallen veterans from Lee County.
Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Sutton, 24, died in Afghanistan after a roadside bomb exploded, according to a Saturday notification. Sutton graduated Lee County High School in 2007.
Sutton joined the more than 11,400 others killed to date on various battlefields in the ongoing war against terror, his name now among the countless numbers who have died through the years in wars to preserve freedom.
"The true purpose of Memorial Day is to pay tribute to those that gave all for you and our country," American Legion Post 30 Commander Ray Humphrey said.
Humphrey spoke at a remembrance event at Leesburg Park, just as he did a couple of hours before at his post in Albany, where a similar remembrance was held beginning with a 6:45 a.m. flag ceremony.
Veterans lowered the American flag to half-staff in front of Post 30 on the 2900 block of Gillionville Road and then brought wreaths to memorials in Albany.
At Veterans Park, U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, spoke of the day and its meaning in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"We must remember their contributions and sacrifices not just on Memorial Day, but every day," Bishop said. "We must fight to ensure that our veterans and our military families have proper care and have all the benefits they have earned because they have fought to ensure that we and our children will have the freedom now and in the future."
Humphrey, in his talks to those who gathered in Albany and Leesburg, said that the flame of memory must keep burning so that the sacrifices made will not be in vain. He also said that no disrespect should be shown to those who still live but have fallen to grief from post-traumatic stress disorder or other ills.
"When you see a homeless veteran sleeping under a bridge, don't judge him too harshly," Humphrey said. "You never know the devils that he is dancing with in his mind."
The Vietnam Memorial, where veterans placed wreaths, was recently desecrated by vandals. It still has marks where it was sprayed with a gooey material.
A $1,000 reward has been offered by restaurateur B.J. Fletcher for the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call investigations at (229) 431-3288 or Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477). The Spanish-speaking APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677.
Local veterans say they also plan to build a memorial to those who fought in World war II in Veterans Park near the Vietnam Memorial. The memorial is expected to cost $20,000, and contributions are needed. For information call American Legion Post 30 at (229) 435-5450.