War dead honored with memorial
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 13, 2011 1:50 AM
Jim Hines, left, a Vietnam veteran,and Luby Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, look at memorial plaques Friday at the Wayne Veterans Memorial.
Gail Hargove wiped tears from her eyes when a choir began singing a medley of patriotic songs -- when a group of retired Marines saluted the American flag being raised at the corner of William and Walnut streets.
She took a deep breath when a Vietnam veteran started the Pledge of Allegiance -- when the hundreds who had gathered at the site that once housed the Wayne County Memorial Community Building, in one voice, joined in.
But Mrs. Hargrove had not traveled to downtown Goldsboro to simply mark Veterans Day -- to pay her respects to the men and women who have fought, and those currently fighting, for their country.
She had come to honor one of the men recently immortalized on the Wayne Veterans Memorial.
She had come to, again, feel the presence of the man she will forever call her husband.
But Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove was only one of the names etched into the granite map of Wayne County that will forever rest on that site.
So the organizers of the dedication ceremony that unfolded Friday afternoon were not surprised that hundreds had packed the grounds.
Ed Borden, one of the men entrusted with preserving grounds that have often been characterized as "hallowed" due to the existence, in the former community building, of plaques that listed each son of Wayne County who fell in combat, said the memorial was a fitting tribute to those who died for a cause larger than any one man.
But the keynote speaker at the event, retired Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, was quick to note that the grounds would also serve as a potent reminder of his home county's tradition of service.
He called the efforts "remarkable" -- "the lineage of which, for those who have read the history of this site, in many ways reflects the very remarkable spirit of community and national service of the Wayne County citizenry," Eikenberry said.
And then he turned to the countless veterans on hand -- dozens representing conflicts from War World II through the Global War on Terror -- and told them just why this latest Goldsboro attraction was, in reality, theirs.
"Let me, and let all of us, recognize veterans past and veterans present," Eikenberry said. "This is your day."
Other military icons also addressed the crowd -- the president of the county Veterans and Patriots Coalition, a longtime chaplain.
But the words that evoked the most reaction came from the commander of the military installation that has called Goldsboro home for more than a half-century.
Col. Patrick Doherty even choked himself up.
He talked about how honored Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was to kick off the ceremony with a missing-man flyover in 4th Fighter Wing F-15E Strike Eagles.
"There are those who have given their all -- their lives," he said. "And that missing-man formation visualizes -- it crystallizes -- that those warriors for our country have met their maker. We hold them in great honor. They make us stronger as a country."
But the part of his speech that left the biggest impact -- the moment in which the colonel's emotions got the best of him -- came far earlier.
"I will tell you, I have never seen and experienced a community like this one," he said, choking up. "You're truly special. You're a fabric of America of the richest kind. You are what's good and what's right in this country.
"This is just another example of how great you are, because I guarantee there are not a lot of other communities doing what you're doing today. ... This is what you're giving to your future generations -- this incredible memorial."