Sacrifice Honored at Services
Moore County residents gathered Monday at The Village Chapel in Pinehurst for a poignant Memorial Day tribute to America's fallen soldiers.
"Many of them paid the ultimate price, and that is what we are here to memorialize today," said the Rev. Thomas Parsons of Pinehurst.
Parsons, a Marine Corps aviator, Vietnam veteran and chaplain of the Sandhills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), gave the address.
That was one of two services held Monday. Members of the Moore County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America held an observance in Carthage
The service and reception at The Village Chapel, conducted by the Sandhills Chapter of MOAA, began with a moment of silence.
After a welcome by retired Army Col. Glenn Phelps, three members of the Pinecrest High School Air Force Junior ROTC posted the colors. Retired Master Sgt. John Mims, a World War II Bataan veteran and prisoner of war, led the congregation of more than 150 in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Parsons noted the inevitable nature of war, quoting philosopher Plato, who said, "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
He shared a personal account of his own experiences as part of Marine Air Group 36, the first full group deployed to Vietnam in August 1965. When he returned home after 14 months, he was told to dress in civilian clothes while re-entering the country to avoid confrontation with anti-war protesters.
"I was not a happy camper," Parsons said.
He focused on the night of June 15, 1966, when a small band of Marines showed "determination and extreme heroism." That night, Parsons was assigned to go on a reconnaissance mission to extract 18 Marines from a part of Vietnam known to him only as Hill 488.
The terrain was rugged. The only place Parsons could find to land his helicopter was atop a large boulder on a dark, moonless night. As he made his approach, a sergeant on the ground waved him off.
"I'm here talking to you because of that," Parsons said, crediting the sergeant with keeping him and his crew from peril. "I will be eternally grateful."
In the end, six of the 18 Marines on the ground died. In comparison, they found the bodies of 43 enemy combatants, and estimated that 100 to 200 enemies were wounded.
That mission alone resulted in the conferral of one Medal of Honor, three Navy Crosses and 13 Silver Stars -- an almost unheard-of amount for one mission.
During his deployment, Parsons flew more than 420 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 21 Air Medals and various unit citations. After his deployment, Parsons completed active duty at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., where he flew search-and-rescue missions and was executive officer of Headquarters and Headquart-ers Squadron. He then served in the active U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for another two years.
In 1992 Parsons, entered Holyrood Seminary in Liberty, N.Y. He now serves as founding rector of Christ Church-Anglican in Pinehurst.
After his remarks, the Golf Capital Chorus Ensemble sang "This is My Country" and a medley of "I Believe" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." Parsons led the congregation in prayer for prisoners of war and those missing in action, and guest bugler Chris Dunn played Taps.
For some, the ceremony was very emotional.
"I thought the service was very, very moving," Pinehurst resident Joy Krough said through tears.
Krough's husband, Jack, was a paratrooper in World War II, and her son served in the Vietnam War.
"I have really strong feelings because many of my friends died in the war," she said. "I just couldn't stay home today."
In Carthage, members of the Moore County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America gathered at Moore Country Veterans Memorial where monuments list the names of Moore County men and women who served in the nation's wars.
There were others there from other wars.
Chapter President Joe Kristek called the ceremony a "huge success."
"It was not so much in the number in attendance, but in the number of other veterans organizations that were represented there," he said.
The ceremony gathered support from many organizations of service men and women, according to Kristek.
"It was truly a gathering of veterans from around the county," he said. "The American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Disabled American Veterans post, Order of the Purple Heart Associations and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Woman's Auxiliary (were) all being represented at the park."
Vietnam veterans Mike Pusillo and Larry McCallum alternately read the names of 44 service members from North Carolina.
"Everyone got a chance to speak, and thus take part in the ceremony," Kristek said. "John Mims -- former Japanese POW and survivor of the Bataan Death March -- provided us with his thoughts on Memorial Day as did others."
Near the end of the ceremony, chapter members placed a wreath at the monuments at Veterans Park. Taps was sounded, followed by a benediction and retirement of the colors.
Staff Writer John Chappell contributed to this report.
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