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SELMA — “Today is a special day for veterans and all American citizens as we come to commemorate an event that has been a long time coming, the dedication of Selma’s monument to its veterans,” Town Councilman Mark Petersen, a Marine Corps veteran, said Sept. 20 as he welcomed about 60 guests to Selma Memorial Gardens.
The third Friday in September is designated as a national day of remembrance for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Peterson said it was fitting everyone had gathered for the occasion at this cemetery where more than 600 veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War had met their final resting place.
“Eventually they will be joined by those who fought for freedom in Desert Storm and Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and this monument not only pays homage to them but also to those of us assembled here,” said Petersen.
Petersen asked guests to keep 38 Vietnam POW/MIA troops from North Carolina in their thoughts and prayers. They include Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove from Mount Olive, missing since May 15, 1975 and one of the very last POW/MIAs of the war.
Petersen acknowledged town of Selma employees who are veterans including Matthew Morris of the Army National Guard, Bobby Pearce of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, Bruce Avery, Brendan Knudson, Joshua Layhew, Ronny Matthews and Jonathan Solomon of the U.S. Marine Corps, Johnny Cooper and Charles ‘C.J.’ Eason of the U.S. Army and Donald Wilson and Silvia Danielson of the U.S. Air Force, along with the late Charles Hester, a former Selma mayor who retired as a Marine lieutenant colonel.
Pastor Sherrill Stevens, a retired Air Force colonel and lifelong Johnston County resident, gave the invocation for the dedication ceremony.
Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver, whose father was a Marine who served in World War II, said the memorial should inspire action.
“I would suggest that this monument be not only a reminder of how our veterans have served us, but how we should serve them,” said Oliver. “Every time we see this memorial, we should ask ourselves what we are doing to help present-day veterans and their families.”
Petersen said the monument and veterans park had been the dream of many of Selma’s veterans for years. In the spring of 2018, Petersen explained, Selma resident Roger Diegele pitched the idea to the Selma Town Council.
Petersen praised Diegele, who was in attendance at the ceremony, and thanked him for his dedication and hard work and for helping steer the project to its completion.
Several veterans unveiled the monument as guests applauded.
“I dedicate this memorial to the memory of those who fell in service to our great nation and to those who served and have gone before us,” said Petersen. “I dedicate it to those veterans still here today, to those who offered their lives so justice, freedom and democracy might survive.”
Petersen said those who made the supreme sacrifice are an inspiration to all Americans.
“As they served America in times of war, yielding their last full measure of devotion, may we serve America in times of peace,” said Petersen. “I dedicate this monument to them, and with it I dedicate this sacred ground to the faithful service of our country and to the preservation of the memory of those who died that liberty might live.”