05/30/06 — Ceremony honors those who gave all

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Ceremony honors those who gave all

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 30, 2006 1:49 PM

Veterans and their descendants gathered at Wayne Community College Monday morning to remember the cost of freedom.

"Starting on Thursday and Friday, you could see ads for half-price sales on this and half-price sales on that, but I can assure you there is no half-price sale on freedom," Veterans and Patriots Coalition President Mike Burris told those gathered for the Memorial Day ceremony.

WCC Memorial Day

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Marm, left, and Cleo Mason of the Wilson B. Eagleson chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen salute after placing a wreath during Monday's Memorial Day ceremony at Wayne Community College.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines throughout the country's history paid the ultimate price -- with their lives, Burris said.

"Freedom is not free. It is earned," Wayne County Commissioner Andy Anderson said.

The ceremony, sponsored by the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition, concluded the Memorial Day ceremonies held this past weekend throughout the county.

Goldsboro, Walnut Creek, Mount Olive, Wayne County and state officials were joined by American Legion Post 11 members, prisoners of war from World War II and the Korean War, wives of POWs, a Medal of Honor recipient, members of the Wilson B. Eagleson chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and veterans of all branches of the armed forces. Dot Raymer, the daughter of Brodie West, the county's most decorated World War I soldier, was also in attendance.

Keynote speaker Dr. Roy Heidicker, chief of the history office at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, spoke about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and the role those pilots played in the war and American history.

The Tuskegee Airmen began as an experiment -- one many Americans hoped would fail, Heidicker said.

"They were treated horribly by the people that were supposed to be training them. They had some commanding officers that were wanting them to fail. Think about having a teacher who, deep in her heart, wants you to fail. Think about having to deal with this and succeed anyway. This is what the Tuskegee Airmen had to do," he said.

Their commanding officers and people throughout the country didn't believe black men could become pilots and, if they did, wouldn't succeed, Heidicker said.

The Tuskegee Airmen's perseverance allowed them to become qualified pilots who served with distinction throughout World War II, he said.

During all of the missions the airmen conducted, the fighter group never allowed a bomber it was protecting to be shot down, which helped create "a record unequaled in American history," Heidicker said.

Cleo Mason, a member of the Wilson B. Eagleson chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, joined Medal of Honor recipient Joe Marm in placing the wreath representing all soldiers who died protecting America's freedoms.

"When great people do great things, they move our entire society forward," Heidicker said.