Veterans recall experiences, sacrifice of fallen soldiers

May. 27, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Bob Wofford has difficulty finding the right words to describe what Memorial Day means to him. Wofford joined the Navy in 1969, and, 45 years later, he stands at attention for the national anthem at the North Carolina Veterans Memorial Pavilion for the 2014 Memorial Day celebration.

"I come to show respect," Wofford said. "It's hard to explain, really. It's just a good day of remembrance for all of our troops."

Theron Scott is also in the sunbaked crowd. Scott has served around the world. He was in Korea from 1988 to 1989. He went to Panama in 1990 as part of Operation Just Cause. He spent time in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Scott knows he is fortunate to be standing in Broadway with his family. He knows there are many soldiers who do not get that chance.

"It's about remembering those who never came home," Scott said, "and the loved ones they left behind."

Frank Gagliano is easy to spot in his red dress uniform. Gagliano served as a Marine in Vietnam and was "right up front against the fence" during the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Gagliano was an engineer who helped lay the foundation for military camps around the world. He worked on everything from roads to tent cities to mess halls to water lines, often for 24 hours at a time with no sleep.

As it does for all members of the United States military, Memorial Day holds a special, somber meaning for Gagliano.

"Some guys I knew," he said, "I didn't see them anymore. It's important. You don't want it to be forgotten."

James Burch can be found at the edge of the standing-room-only audience. Burch joined the Army in 1965 and served during the Korean DMZ Conflict.

"This is a day we reflect back on those who gave their life for this country," Burch said. "This is a time of remembrance and honor of their service."

All the veterans in attendance understand the need to honor those who have fallen. Whether they were killed by enemy artillery in the fox holes of Korea or shot down in their planes over Vietnam, Chairman Don Schreiner of the Lee County Veterans Council made it clear that they all died in service to their country.

And the veterans and civilians at the 2014 Memorial Day celebration did everything they could to ensure that the sacrifices made by countless men and women before them will not be forgotten.