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Memorial Day

MOTORISTS URGED TO PUT TRAFFIC SAFETY ON THEIR TRAVEL AGENDA THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

RICHMOND – As travelers plan their vacations and pack their bags for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, Virginia State Police is urging motorists to make sure traffic safety is at the top of their agenda. Already this year, 280 individuals, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians and motorcyclists, have lost their lives in traffic crashes. The startling number comes on the heels of an almost 11 percent increase in traffic deaths during 2017.  

“Last year, 843 people were killed on Virginia’s highways. On average, that’s more than two people a day, 16 people a week and 70 people a month. But no matter how you count these tragic incidents, there are just too many,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “The sad fact is that many traffic crashes are preventable, but in order to prevent them we all have to do our part by buckling up, complying with speed limits, eliminating distractions and never driving impaired.”

To ensure the Memorial Day holiday is as safe as possible, Virginia State Police will increase patrols during the long holiday weekend. Beginning Friday, May 25, 2018, VSP will join law enforcement around the country for Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt. The 2018 Memorial Day statistical counting period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 25, 2018, and continues through midnight Monday, May 28, 2018.

During the 2017 Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, Virginia troopers arrested 109 drunk drivers, cited 10,337 speeders and 2,395 reckless drivers, and issued 250 citations for child seat violations. They also cited 820 individuals for failing to wear a seat belt.

The 2018 Memorial Day weekend falls during the “Click It or Ticket” campaign, and state police troopers will be vigilant in their efforts to increase seat belt usage for travelers of all ages. The two-week concentrated education and enforcement initiative began last Monday and runs through Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Of the 843 total traffic deaths last year throughout Virginia, 351 were unrestrained.

With increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

From 2008 to 2017 nationwide, 126 law enforcement officers working along the roadside were struck by a vehicle because a driver failed to heed the “Move Over” law.

To raise awareness of this law and the impact it has on first responders and highway safety workers, Virginia State Police has coordinated the 2nd Annual National “Move Over” Tweet-Along. Over a 24-hour period on Friday, May 25, 2018, public safety agencies, departments of transportation and numerous other local and state agencies from across the country will inundate Twitter with the “Move Over” message using hashtag #MoveOver18. 

“The Unfinished Work”by the Rev. Dr. Ricky R. Hurst

Thank you for this opportunity to share with you today. I count it a great honor. For the comfort and inspiration of our souls, hear these sacred words from Psalm 46:1-11 and Matthew 24:4-14:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  

(Psalm 46:1-11)

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:4-14)

On this Memorial Day, I would also like to share with you a sacred address that has become a national treasure:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863)

Memorial Day is more of a day for the living than it is for the dead. The dead have now received their reward. And for us, the living, Memorial Day is meant for more than just remembering. It is a day meant for dedicating ourselves to “the unfinished work.” President Abraham Lincoln realized this when he stood on a battlefield saturated with the blood of young men who had given their lives in order to save their nation. And a year and a half later, President Lincoln’s life would also be taken in his effort to preserve the union.  

All of us here today have been touched by the lives of loved ones, who gave their lives for a greater cause. I was asked recently if I was a veteran. And my reply was, “No, but I have great respect for veterans and for those who give themselves in the fight for freedom.” I do come from a long line of veterans. My fourth great grandfather, Robert Hurst was a veteran of the Revolutionary War; my third great grandfather, William Hurst was a veteran of the Seminole Indian War, my second great grandfather, Robert Augustus Hurst was a veteran of the Civil War; and my grandfather, Herbert Johns Hurst was a veteran of World War One.     

If our ancestors and loved ones risked their lives to protect their homeland, then what will we do to pick up the pieces of broken freedoms, broken communities, broken families, and broken lives. I suggest that there are two things we can do in the endless labor of the unfinished work: Practice Love and Build Community!   

Human Rights for everyone must be more important than our own self-interests and agendas. To dedicate ourselves to the proposition that all men and women are created equal, requires us to look deeply within our souls and to rediscover the mandate of love.  One of my Catholic colleagues of high position, Pope Francis, has recently said, “Only love can save us!” Truly, there is nothing else that can save our nation and save our world.

So, let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves; let us love the alien because we also have been aliens; let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us; let us love one another as Jesus has loved us; let us love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

At the very core of human rights is love, and without love there is no sacrifice, no freedom, no real meaning to life, and no hope for our community and nation. Without the compassion of love we are no more than an angry mob that is let loose on a rampage of looting, burning, and killing; or a tyrannical, authoritarian power that crushes human dignity and freedom of expression.

One hundred years after President Lincoln’s address, the Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. made another speech that captured the minds and hearts of our nation as it struggled with civil rights. We know that speech by the title, “I Have a Dream,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., on August 28, 1963. He spoke in an eloquent way about the unfinished work of human rights and community. He had a dream of a nation and a community, whose children would not be “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” What a wonderful dream for all of us!

Community is at the core of our nation. Without the communion of love there is no community, and without community there is no union, and without union there is no nation. Such preaching sounds radical and dangerous. And, I suppose it is! Dr. King found that out when his life was taken in his effort to proclaim the proposition of a beloved community. So, let us treasure such a beloved community, a community for which we would lay down our lives, and for which we would continue the labor of the unfinished work. The beloved community is more than a dream. It is a new reality, which must continue to be purchased by all of us, for all of us.            

Let us be dedicated together to “the unfinished work” that God has given us, to advance the call to love one another, to bring compassion, healing, and justice in our community and world. And, let us labor together as if the day has already arrived: A day when we will bring relief to the poor and marginalized, healing to the broken hearted, release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; A day when people will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and when neighbors and nations will no longer fight one another anymore.

Let us pray: Dear God, fill our hearts with your love – the love of Christ to give our lives for our friends, and to live our lives with our friends in freedom and peace. Give us grace to find a way to bring healing and strength to one another, and forgive us of our selfishness and pride. Help us to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with you. And, continue O Lord, to create within us a pure heart, so that we may live and work together, until the day comes when others take our place in the unfinished work. Amen.

Written and delivered by the Rev. Dr. Ricky R. Hurst, Pastor of Main Street Baptist Church, at the Veterans Park Pavilion on Memorial Day in Emporia, Virginia, on May 25, 2015.  Thank You to Rev. Dr. Hurst for sending the text for publication on Emporia News.

      

American Legion Celebrates Memorial Day with Community

American Legion Posts 46 and 151 joined forces on Monday to celebrate Memorial Day with the Emporia-Greensville community.

The event began at 11 Monday morning with a welcome from David Barnes that included a reading of the poem "Proud to Be an American," before the Greensville County High School JROTC presenting the Colors. Following the posting of the colors, the Bowmans offered a heartfelt "thank you," before performing the "Star Spangled Banner," our National Anthem.  The Pledge of Allegiance and an Invocation by Rev. Brad Barbour of Victory Fellowship Church.

Lee Seymour led the POW ceremony, noting that the empty chair is present with the POW/MIA flag on it as a reminder of those not present.

Adj. Ed Bryant then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Rev. Dr. Ricky Hurst of Main Street Baptist Church in Emporia. Rev. Dr. Ricky R. Hurst is a native of Carroll County, Georgia, and has been an ordained Baptist Minister for 34 years.  He has served as pastor in Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia, as well as the Director of Donor Relation for the Virginia Baptist Foundation.  Ricky is a graduate of Shorter College in Rome, Georgia; the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and the Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond.  Currently, he is the Pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Emporia, Virginia.  He and his wife, Joy, have three sons: Nathan (daughter-in-law, Vanessa), Samuel, and Jeremiah (daughter-in law, Allison). Ricky’s hobbies include creative writing, antique book and bottle collecting, nature, and gardening.  The text of Rev. Dr. Hurst's address follows this article.

After the Keynote Address a wreath was laid at the Memorial as Taps was sounded by Kalib Turner.  The wreath was laid by (l-r between JROTC Honor Guard),  Richard Brown, LaVerne Johnson, Katherine Lucas, David Barnes under the watchful eyes of the JROTC Honor Guard provided by Jaquesa Joyne and  Ryshawn Sykes.

After the wreath was laid the Colors were retired and Rev. Barbour offered the Benediction

American Legion Hosts Memorial Day Ceremony

American Legion Posts 46 and 151 hosted a Community Memorial Day Ceremony at Veteran's Memorial Park yesterday, and laid a wreath in memory of our fallen Service Men and Women. Please enjoy this brief slideshow of the ceremony.  The slideshow has been set to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," performed by Judy Collins as featured in the Ken Burns Series "The Civil War" on PBS.  "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was written by Julia Ward Howe and was first published in 1861. 

Our modern Memorial Day also dates from the time of the Civil War, originating as "Decoration Day."  While Memorial Day started as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, it now serves as a day to honor all Americans that have died in military service.  Yesterday's ceremony also featured a moment of silence for Prisoners of War and those Mission in Action.

Retired General Delivers Keynote at Memorial Day Celebration

Brigadier General (ret.) David L. Johnson served for 30 years as a United States Air Force Officer.  General Johnson has 78 combat sorties to his credit.  He commanded airdrop/airland operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (93-95) and was the Deputy Joint Task Force Commander for Operation Support Hope in Central East Africa (Rwanda) in 1995. He commanded the 43rd Airlift Wing and Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville North Carolina 1997-1999.  He served his last operational assignment as the Vice Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida.  Because of his diverse operational credentials, General Johnson was selected to serve as the Air Force Director of Weather and he retired from that position in 2004. 

After forming and operating a senior executive consulting company General Johnson was asked to apply for and then served as the Director of the National Weather Service 2004 from 2004, through Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Under his leadership, the National Weather Service  exceeded the Government Performance and Results Act standards for tornado accuracy and lead-time during the record setting 2004 tornado season.  He led the fielding and achieved the Initial Operating Capability for America’s Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean and acquired operational capability for the 35th and 36 largest supercomputers in the world.  General Johnson placed a NOAA weather radio in every public school in America in a massive joint initiative with the Department of Homeland Security.

He retired to Lake Gaston in 2007 with his wife, Elizabeth.

His moving remarks reminded all of us in attendance what the real meaning of Memorial Day is.  General Johnson kindly provided an excerpt of his speech, which I am publishing below:

On Memorial Day we remember fallen heroes and pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again.   It’s a day of thanksgiving for their service and sacrifice, a day to remember America and soldiers who now rest.   It’s a day we celebrate -- it’s a day to be with the family and to remember.   

It is not “Veteran’s Day" when we appreciate all veterans – living and deceased.  And, it is not “JUST A DAY OFF”……

It is all about remembering Airmen, Marines, Soldiers, and Navy and Coast Guard Sailors who have died after serving their country.  It is about us – being worthy heirsof their sacrifice.

I know this morning, that across the country -- children and their parents will watch or participate in local town Memorial Day parades.  I can see the young ones sitting on the sidewalks and waving flags as the decorated bicycles of young people pass – as the high school band goes by. I can see people who were seated – RISE and stand and place a hand over their heart in honor as the flag of our nation passes by.  I can almost smell the cookout and see people enjoying a day on the lake. Memorial Day is a good time to remember and it is a good day to be with the family at the cookout and to remember the sacrifices of those who died after protecting us.

Sgt Willie McLawhorn was not at the cookout – and he won’t be on the lake later today.  He made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan just before Christmas 2010.  He was there to train the Afghan Army – teach them how to operate a checkpoint when suicide bombers turned the building in which he was working -- into a crater in the earth.  They used a minivan packed with explosives.  Willie was a great soldier.  He had re-upped while serving in Iraq – agreeing to another 5 years in the dedicated service of his country.  He and everybody knew this was dangerous territory – the homeland of the Taliban

Ever since the Taliban were supposedly “cleared” from this area in 2001, there had been continuing incidents.  The soldiers (Afghan and US) who were working at the base needed protection.  While Willie was teaching Afghans in the building -- the suicide bombers crashed through the outer checkpoint.   They may have been using Afghan Army Uniforms – a common tactic designed to gain a few seconds of doubt in the guards mind.  The explosion was massive and, it was quick.  Willie gave his life for us – keeping us safe here by fighting evil over there…

He was young, only 23 years old.  He was one of the Screaming Eagles Finest – one of the Roanoke Valley’s best.  Diane, Willie McLawhorn Sr. still live here.  We honor their son, what he stood for, what he did in his too short life, and we honor his sacrifice. 

On June 21, 2006, Massachusetts born -- Sgt First Class Jared  Monti  was a leader in a  team that established a small base on a ridge to support a larger Army operation in the valley below. When the larger operation was delayed, Monti's team ran low on provisions.   Unfortunately, the helicopter that brought supplies -- revealed the team's position.

That evening, our small team was attacked by a group of at least 60.  Our team took cover and returned fire, and Monti radioed for artillery and close air support. Enemy fire killed one of our team outright.   Another soldier, Specialist Brian Bradbury, was severely wounded and was lying out – completely in the open between the enemy and our team's position. The attackers continued to shoot at the wounded man – it was almost like target practice.   When someone called out that he was going to try to rescue Bradbury.   Monti replied, "That’s my guy. I am going to get him."

Monti made three attempts to reach Bradbury. On his first, he advanced to within three feet of Bradbury before it became so intense that he was forced back by a massive amount of machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

The response to his second try was similarly intense and he was forced to turn back.  In an act of selfless dedication to Bradbury, as the rest of his patrol provided covering fire, Monti advanced a third time but was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade and died moments later.  For this above and beyond the call action -- Sgt Monti was awarded our Nation’s Highest Award – the MEDAL OF HONOR. 

Unfortunately the wounded man, Bradbury subsequently died when the cable on the rescue hoist lifting him into the evacuation helicopter broke. The fall also killed a medic who was riding up with him.  What bravery, what selfless action, what sacrifice for brothers in arms – and for us.

Another Roanoke Valley Veteran, Dallas Jones just passed away last year. 

He was at Kaneohe Air Field – just on the other side of the island from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Dallas was awakened by Japanese strafing aircraft. Running to the hanger to discover that several of the planes were already ablaze, Dallas recovered a .50 caliber machine gun from one of the burning aircraft and he and a fellow crew member mounted the machine gun on a piece of pipe. As the next formation of three Japanese bombers flew over the hanger, Dallas began firing on the oncoming planes. Dallas Jones lost 7 fellow Naval comrades at Kaneohe that day.  Dallas went on to serve a full 20 year career in the Navy, then he retired, spent some time in California but he felt the intense call of family and home – he returned to his native Roanoke Valley.   Working locally till he was well into his eighties, Dallas Jones, founded, in 2008 -- the Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum.  It is located,  just down I-95 in Roanoke Rapids, to honor valley veterans and to educate the community about the sacrifices Veterans and their families make.   This Veterans Museum is still going strong today.

All Veterans that make the ultimate sacrifice love America very much. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for their country. They rejected the all too fashionable skepticism of today.  Those we honor today -- chose to believe and answer the call of duty.

They personify dedication of the heart and stood for good. 

Their sacrifice -- the sacrifice of all we honor here today-- is appreciated by us.  We honor them AND THEIR FAMILIES here today, on this special day of remembrance. 

Our world is safer because of them and what they did.

And we owe them something.

We owe them first, a promise: That we remember that peace is fragile and needs constant vigilance. It sometimes needs direct action – like helping a newly emerging army in a country half way around the world from us – like saving a buddy from further harm.  And we owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in this world -- people that have values much different that those we hold dear.  Those enemies may not overfly us on the way to a target – they might not even seem dangerous until we know their true intent.  We know we have challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace -- is by staying strong and staying engaged where our interests lie.

As President Reagan once said, “If we really care about peace, we must stay strong. If we really care about peace, we must, (through our strength), demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does.”   That’s the lesson of this century and, I think, it is a great lesson for this day. 

Those we honor here today-- understood that principle of commitment;  they acted on it and we honor them.

There have only been two people willing to die for you – one is the American soldier.

May God bless you, and may you have a day full of meaningful memories of those you know from the Roanoke Valley who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.    Let us also remember, ALL who have died after serving their country honorably and well in the military.

 I just hope we walk worthy in the footsteps they make possible.

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