Downtown Memorial Day tribute pays homage to fallen heroes

A group of local veterans hold hands along Mebane’s Second Street as Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” plays in the background during Sunday's Mebane Memorial Day ceremony at the Mebane's Veteran's Garden. It was a touching moment that brought together veterans of all branches of service.

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 26, Mebane’s veteran community paid tribute to those who paid the ultimate price in defense of liberty at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Mebane Veteran’s Garden. 

American Legion Post 95 Commander Don Solomon welcomed all of the spectators onhand, as well as a large group of special guests, including Commander Mike Barr of VFW Post 1920, American Legion Post 95 Senior Vice Commander Wayne Brewer, Mebane’s Mayor, Glendel Stephenson, City Council member Everette Greene, Dianne Sellers, the President of VFW Auxiliary Post 1920, and a slew of others, including Louis Rice and his wife, James Bowman, John Lee, Cynthia Roysdon, Tammy Crawford, Shannon Tyler, and Peg Hanson of the Marine Corps. 

“We thank you all for coming. It’s a hot day, but it’s still a good day to remember veterans,” Solomon said. 

The colors were posted by a Marines Corps Honor Guard - the LCPL Alan D. Lam Detachment - under the guidance of Officer in Charge Jeff Brown. 

Following a beautiful rendition of all the verses of “America the Beautiful,” sung by Felicia Massey, James Bowman provided the invocation, and a group of Alamance County Girl Scouts recited the Pledge of Allegiance. 

The guests and spectators were then treated to a very special presentation, as American Legion Post 95 member Lucian Mascarella was honored for 60 years of consecutive service to the American Legion. Mascarella has been a dues-paying member of Post 95 every year consistently since 1959. 

“This is my seventh year as Commander, and I got a big manila envelope from the national headquarters of the American Legion,” Commander Solomon explained. “We have a member that has got 60 consecutive years (of service to American Legion) - has never missed a year. A lot of people join. They might forget their membership for a year.” 

Mascarella and his wife came through the Honor Guard, who had created a ceremonial path for the veteran and his spouse. Mascarella then accepted a plaque in recognition of his 60 years of continuous membership. 

“He still gets around pretty good, and gives me a hard time at the meetings,” Commander Solomon said with a laugh. “God Bless you - 60 years sir.” 

“God Bless the United States - the greatest country in the world. And the Marines,” Mascarella said. 

VFW Post 1920 Commander Mike Barr shared memories of his friend Sgt. Paul Dumont, Jr., who was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan on August 19, 2009. Dumont served as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic in the 149th Transportation Company, 10th Transportation Battalion out of Fort Eustis, Virginia. 

“We’re here to honor those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation,” Barr said. 

Dumont was working underneath an all-terrain forklift that fateful day when he and his comrades came under a mortar attack. During that impact, it knocked the forklift off on top of Dumont, tragically killing him. 

“Paul, he was important to me. He was one of my soldiers who I got to watch come up the ranks,” Barr explained. “Every day, he did what he signed up to do when he joined the military. He lived every day to the best of his ability. If there was fun to be had, Paul was going to be there. But at the age of 24, while serving in Afghanistan, Paul lost his life. That’s somebody I think about every year around this time.” 

Army veteran John Sharpe, an Eastern Alamance High graduate, fought back his emotions as he spoke of what Memorial Day means to him.  

“A lot of people take advantage of Memorial Day. They go on cookouts and they go to the beach, and they don’t understand the sacrifices that our brothers and sisters in arms have made. They made the ultimate sacrifice in not coming home. That’s why I commend you all for coming out and listening to us,” Sharpe said. “I’d like to just take a moment and recognize all those among us who served or are currently serving, and those who have lost a loved one. We are humbled by your sacrifices, as we know they are great. We commend the demonstrations of courage and strength that you have no doubt shown through the most difficult times.” 

“More than 1.1 million men and women have died in wartime throughout the span of our nation’s history,” Sharpe continued. “These were people woven into the fabric of the communities across the nation. They were loved. They were mourned. And they were missed. 

Personally, I cannot begin to comprehend the moment when you send your loved one to war. You watch them disappear out of the line of sight, knowing it may be the very last time that you see them, hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them.” 

“Our way of life has been shaped and made possible by those who have served, and those who have been lost. I would encourage you to get to know those stories within your communities. I think you would be amazed at the stories of true valor you would find,” Sharpe added. “I ask that we talk to our kids, to let them know that it’s good to serve. If you don’t want to serve, then support. Support your nation. Support the troops. And we can all get through it together as a community.” 

Sharpe paid tribute to his grandfather - Air Force veteran John Lee - for providing him the inspiration to enter the Armed Forces. 

“Grandpa, I want to tell you. Without you, I wouldn’t be here today. You’re without a doubt the most inspirational man I’ve ever met. I have some big boots to fill. And I don’t think I’ve filled them yet, but I’m trying to get there. I promise you.” 

Mayor Glendel Stephenson also spoke, describing Abraham Lincoln’s surroundings as he prepared to give the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War. He then recited Lincoln’s legendary speech. 

“Our faithful men and women have met the challenge and answered the call every time our nation has faced these kinds of national threats,” Stephenson said. “In many cases, they returned home, returned to their families, and went to work building what became the greatest nation in the history of the world. America is a country with a big heart, providing more assistance of many kinds to nations around the world.” 

“So today, we salute you - our heroes - who gave much, and to those who gave all,” Stephenson continued. “To you who are present today, and those who are remembered by these bricks upon which we walk (at the Veteran’s Garden), we give to you our thanks. You will not be forgotten. God Bless the United States. God Bless America. God Bless our military people, who stand on the front lines and defend us against evil across the world.” 

Following the Mayor’s speech, the veterans onhand conducted one of the more touching and highly-anticipated components of the annual Mebane Memorial Day tribute, as each of the servicemen and servicewomen on hand came together in the middle of Second Street, called out to the road by the respective song representing their branch of the military. 

Then, once all the veterans were together, they held hands while Johnny Cash’s classic “Ragged Old Flag” played in the background. Plenty of tears were shed as the veterans embraced and held each other’s hands as Cash sang his patriotic theme. 

Felicia Massey sang another heartfelt song, “I’ve Been There,” which led up to the wreath laying ceremony. Wreath layers included Wayne Brewer of American Legion Post 95, Mike Barr of VFW Post 1920, K. Carl Singley of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Mary Dixon and Peg Hansen of the Marine Corps. 

Once all the wreaths were properly laid, the VFW and American Legion paid tribute to three of its service members who passed away over the last year. John R. Shanklin, Oscar Brewington, and Coy B. Bell, Jr.’s lives were celebrated by a 21-gun salute from the Marine Corps Honor Guard, followed by the playing of “Taps” on the trumpet by Billy Dickten. Louis Rice provided the closing prayer.