Veterans reflect on true meaning of Memorial Day during Aiken's parade

Veterans reflect on true meaning of Memorial Day during Aiken's parade  (WRDW-TV, May 26, 2012)

Veterans reflect on true meaning of Memorial Day during Aiken's parade (WRDW-TV, May 26, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o' clock / Saturday, May 26, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Many spent their Memorial Day weekend in Aiken to honor veterans and fallen heroes.

The parade included live music from Signal Corps bands and patriotic floats, and even dogs and horses joined the show. They showed their gratitude and respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

"Memorial Day is not just a start to summer. It's the day we set aside to remember the fallen," said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. "This is the largest memorial day parade in South Carolina. There are only a handful of memorial day parades left, really."

But the real guest stars were the countless veterans and active duty military. They talked about the importance of remembering the heroes who never made it back home.

Cpl. Clifton Halten, who serves in the Marine Corps, just came back from Afghanistan. He spoke about a friend he lost in Iraq.

"It's kind of hard, because I not only know the face, I know the name, I know the history, I know his relatives ..." Halten said. "[The loss] Really makes you think about what you've taken for granted in the past."

Retired Sgt. Maj. B.T. Barnes also spoke about a friend whom he lost in the war.

"His name was John Cruise. I'll never forget John as long as I live, because he and I were very close. He's the first [World War II] veteran killed from the city of Columbia, and he's buried in Columbia."

Retired Maj. Gen. Perry M. Smith from the U.S. Air Force mentioned wearing a Marine shirt in memory of Jimmie Dyess for the parade.

Smith explained that one of Augusta's greatest heroes, Jimmie Dyess, was his wife's father. Dyess won a Carnegie award and the Medal of Honor for his service.

The respect and memories of the fallen heroes highlight the true meaning of Memorial Day.

"[Memorial Day] is not a day for veterans and for general patriotism. It's to remind us of all the Jimmie Dyess's in the world," Smith said.

He went on to talk about his roommate, Don Howard from West Point, and the importance of remembering those who died in combat, along with bringing their legacy forward.

Aiken has the largest Memorial Day parade in the state of South Carolina.

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