A day for remembering fallen heroes

May. 27, 2014 @ 08:59 AM

As the sun cut through the morning mist early Monday, a crowd gathered inside the auditorium of the Hudson Uptown Building, filing into rows of chairs and lining the back wall, pinning on red, paper poppy flowers and American flag lapel pins.

About 100 people packed in for the 26th Annual Memorial Day Service in Hudson, honoring all of the area’s service men and women, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

This country’s heroes aren’t walking the halls of hospitals or schools, said Eddie Tapper, with Hudson American Legion Post 29, addressing the crowd at the service, because “our heroes are those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Those are my heroes — those that gave it all.”

This year, the service added something new to honor those heroes — speakers from the families of the last three Caldwell County natives who died in service of the country: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason C. Ramseyer, Army Sgt. Larry “Robby” Bowman and Army Sgt. Jason Ray Parsons.

Cindy Hicks, Ramseyer’s mother, spoke about the outpouring of support that has been steady throughout the eight years since her only child passed, killed by a bomb in Iraq in 2006. Not a week has gone by that she has not received a card in the mail, she said.

“(We) can’t do anything else but make sure he and all the others that have died are never forgotten,” she said, calling the fallen heroes “the best of the best of the community.”

There to speak about Bowman were his mother, Jane Braswell, and sister, Angela Sigmon. Sigmon spoke of her charming younger brother, recalling their strong bond and telling how in his teenage years, Bowman loved NASCAR, barbecue and  Harley-Davidson motorcycles and how he found his place in the U.S. Army.

On April 13, 2007, Sigmon said, she got a call from Bowman’s wife, telling her that a bomb had hit his convoy in Iraq, after Bowman had taken the place of a fellow soldier who had fallen ill.

She spoke of how the military “wrapped its arms around me and my family,” and Memorial Day became a very personal holiday.

Parson’s mother, Margaret Pritchard, could not attend but wrote a letter that was read to the crowd by Regina Goforth. The letter said that Pritchard broke down when writing about the holiday, which she said will never again to her be one of cookouts, family gatherings and kids running through sprinklers. It all changed on Jan. 9, 2009, when two officers showed up at her home with a Bible in hand to tell her that a roadside bomb had killed her son.

She told how her last words to him were on New Year’s Day, when he told her he loved her and would see her soon, as he was scheduled to make the trip home a little more than a month later.

As the day heated up, another crowd gathered in the square in downtown Lenoir just before 11 a.m. to celebrate the Lenoir-area men and women who have given their lives in service to their country.

Capt. David W. Aycock, a lawyer in Hickory and a current candidate for district court judge in the 25th District, gave the keynote address, saying that this eagerly anticipated holiday of cookouts, baseball, races and the beginning of summer is also one of the most solemn of holidays.

Aycock told the story of his days at Fort Irwin in southern California, when he gave his first folded American flag to the family of a veteran who had died, saying the moments before he handed off the flag were some of the most nerve-racking of his life. But once he presented the flag and spoke to the family, his nerves melted away and that duty -- to present families of fallen veterans with the traditional folded American flag -- is one of the biggest privileges of his life.