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Patriotism shines at Shiloh memorial program

May 29, 2017

SHILOH, Tenn. — Against the backdrop of countless grave markers, hundreds gathered at Shiloh National Cemetery Monday morning to remember the fallen. Shiloh National Military Park Superintendent Dale Wilkerson spoke of the magnitude of loss brought by the Civil War. “Before you here in Shiloh National Cemetery lie almost 4,000 Americans,” he said. “Two thousand, three hundred and fifty-seven of these are known only to God. It is good and right that we gather here today to honor these, our countrymen.” The annual ritual at Shiloh is steeped in patriotism. Boy Scouts present the flags of the branches of the armed services. Kossuth High School singers perform the national anthem, and Liza Smith does a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” After the laying of a wreath by retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Hurd and Michael and Thomas Wernimont, sons of Joseph Stephen Wernimont, who rests at the hallowed grounds of Shiloh, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4606 and American Legion Post #28 fire a military salute, and Dr. Jerry Rogers of Savannah performs the mournful “Taps.” Young children, seated with family in rows of lawn chairs, hold small American flags. Gen. Hurd, delivering the memorial address, said these rituals must not be cast aside in favor of spending the day at the lake. “Today, we pause to remember not only all we have gained in our nation’s wars, but, more importantly, all we have lost,” he said. “Wars have preserved the precious gift of freedom that we Americans enjoy every day of our lives. Memorial Day is the one day each year that we set aside to reflect on the true price of freedom — the cherished lives of generations of young men and women in uniform.” Hurd, a Savannah resident, was assigned to South Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force and flew 169 combat missions. A command pilot with more than 3,700 flying hours in F-4, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, he holds the Meritorious Service Medal, among several others. He lamented the sacrifice of those who died in the line of duty, many losing the opportunity to be husbands, fathers and grandfathers. “Behind every grave is a story of grief and loss that came to a family, a child or a town,” said Hurd. “Eventually, the day will come when there is no one left who knew them as they lived and no visitors come to stand quietly before their solitary marker. But the day should never come when America forgets them or what they did for their nation.”