Florence National Cemetery hosts annual Memorial Day service

Pee Dee

The Florence National Cemetery held its annual Memorial Day ceremony to honor military members who lost their lives while serving America. More than 200 people attended the event Monday morning.

With temperatures near 100 degrees, officials told News13 they were thankful supporters still showed up.

“A lot of these people probably don’t come (to cemetery) until Memorial Day and Veterans Day, so it’s really a pleasure to have them out here. We put on a show, and try to keep it short because it’s so hot,” said Col. Barry Wingard, Florence Veterans Park Committee Chair.

Director of the Joint Staff, South Carolina National Guard, Brigadier General Brad Owens was the speaker at the tenth annual ceremony. He remembered soliders who lost their lives during active duty. 

“That’s always emotional for me. Even though I didn’t know the people because I know how hard it would be if somebody you work with everyday got killed,” said Col.Wingard.

The service also included a Taps performance from the Veterans Honor Guard who also fired rifle volleys. A Wilson High School student sung the National Anthem.

Additionally, there was a living history program involving 19th century re-enactors from the Pee Dee Light Artillery, the Palmetto Battalion, and the Third New Hamshire Company C, the Sons of Union Veterans Camp #10, Georgia’s Charles Devans Jr. Department and the South Carolina Color Guard.

With over 12,000 graves buried at the Florence National Cemetery, many families gathered amongst the graves to see their loved ones.

“It’s a great opportunity to not only remember but also to teach the generations behind us the importance of what our country means and the freedom that they have,” said Nathan Neighbors.

Both of Neighbors’ parents are buried at the cemetery and he always attends the ceremony.

“I think he’d (his father) be proud that his family came out and continues to come. Not only to honor him and his wife, but also all of the fellow men and women who served,” Neighbors said.

Senator Hugh Leatherman also attended the ceremony. He presented the Florence Veterans Park Committee with a $10,000 check from the state of South Carolina to go towards the Florence Veterans Park Gold Star Families Monument.

The monument is the next memorial to be added to the Florence Veterans park. It will honor the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

At a meeting last Thursday, the Florence County Council approved a $20,000 contribution to help with the purchase and installation of the monument.

With the 10,000 dollar donation, there is only $15,000 left for the monument to be built. All other funds will come from each district’s infrastructure funding allocation.

According to officials, it will be about eight feel tall and composed of black and gray granite with a cutout of a saluting service member.

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