A salute to sacrifice

With every gift, comes responsibility. The American Legion’s state chaplain said Americans’ greatest gift, freedom, brings with it the responsibility of never forgetting the sacrifice that soldiers have made for us over the years.

American Legion’s N.C. Chaplain Randy Cash drew applause and cheers from a Newton crowd to kick off the 122nd Reunion Day on Thursday. Cash, along with Newton Mayor Pro-tem Anne Stedman, spoke to a crowd of about 100 reunion goers about the importance of remembering those who died for America and those who live within its borders.

Cash is a 30-year veteran of the Navy and served in wars in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was inside the Pentagon during the attacks on 9/11, and said terrorists were “sadly mistaken” if they thought they would “cripple” the nation.

“There is truly no other nation that has given freedom or quality of life like the United States,” Cash said. “America is one of the greatest gifts from God, and its very existence protects the possibility of freedom throughout the world.”

Cash referenced soldiers recently killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Aug. 6 and said they add to the 1.35 million who have given their life in service to the nation.

Cash is a Lincolnton native. Though he said he has traveled the world and lived in many different places, he said Lincoln and Catawba counties will always be home and said he is proud of the integrity and persistence the areas have shown throughout the years.

Like Cash, Stedman told citizens that Reunion Day is about remembering those lost, and referenced the recent death of Chris Eckard, a Marine from the Springs Road area who died in war on Feb. 20, 2010.

“His death stands as a reminder that we are all affected by war,” Stedman said, adding that “the war came home to us,” and that friends and family will remember him forever. “Freedom came a high cost, but Eckard knew this and fought for our freedom.”

This year marks the 122nd memorial service on reunion day. American Legion Post 16 organizes the event, and Rev. Gary Patterson, Post 16 commander, reinforced what the day is all about.

“Be sure, if you are not a vet, to then thank a vet,” he said, adding that remembering veterans is what the day’s festivities are all about.
The Newton-Conover NJROTC conducted the presentation of arms, and Post 16 members delivered a 21-gun salute to the sound of “Taps.”

Though many veterans were involved in the service, the Court Square in Newton was full of past soldiers who saluted the nation’s colors and fallen heroes during the service. Servicemen from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines flooded the area, and laughed, chatted and cried with old friends and comrades.

To close the service, Cash read a verse from Psalm 46 that is special to him.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” he said. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.