There were a number of star spangled stories wrapped up in Sunday’s annual Graniteville War Memorial Association ceremony that paid tribute to 16 Johnston veterans who died while serving their country.
It is a service the GWMA has been hosting since the non-profit group was incorporated on Sept. 2, 1919, though the message has stayed the same.
“Freedom isn’t free,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena. “We shouldn’t only thank our veterans one day a year, because without these veterans, America would not be America.”
Sunday’s celebration was filled with pomp and circumstance, from Jennifer Dionne’s powerful greeting to Bagpiper and former U.S. Marine David Hogg’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” as he marched off the memorial ground.
The morning began with the Johnston Police Department Color Guard leading a march to Graniteville Memorial after a service conducted by Pastor Rebecca Shaw at the Graniteville Baptist Church located off Serrel Sweet Road.
Ralph Scorpio, a longtime Graniteville resident who read the names of the Graniteville war dead, best summed up the morning exercise.
“It’s obvious lots of work went into the organization and preparation of this ceremony,” said Scorpio. “Everyone who had a part made today really special.”
The Memorial Sunday Observance featured the Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the national anthem and “My Country Tis of Thee” by Graniteville Baptist Church school children Audrey Dionne, Alex Dionne, Ethan Salley, Macee Salley, Griffen Salley, Amielia Sullivan, Fiona Sullivan, Emilia Ferraro and Olivia Ferraro.
Louis McGowan, president of the Johnston Historical Society, gave the keynote address.
“Memorial Day is a day to give thanks for what we have in this country, remembering the role played by those who died for us. Maybe our buying power isn’t what it used to be, but most Americans are blessed with all we really need: food, shelter, schooling for our children, freedom to worship as we please and a few comforts,” he said. “Our fallen heroes helped greatly to bring us all these benefits by fighting our enemies and helping us to keep our cherished freedom.”
The Graniteville service, he said, is one way the town honors those heroes.
“In Graniteville, we see the names of those service people on the plaques in this little park. We should do all we can to make sure that this park and these ceremonies continue and that these people are not forgotten. We should always remember what our brave heroes did for us,” he said.
Nine-year-old Audrey Dionne later read the famous Disabled American Veterans poem Forget-Me-Not.
“This was a great show of our Graniteville community,” said Historical Society vice president and GWMA president Dan Brown. “Pastor Law, the [Johnston] police, Sunday school children, adults, veterans ... we thank them all for their participation and helping to make this a very special Memorial Observance.”
Brown praised Robbin’s Funeral Home for donating the memorial plants; Bel and Louis McGowan for planning the observance; Sunday school teachers JoAnn Barbieri and Erin Ferraro; JHS; Donald Catley, Ann Croft and the Brown family for arranging the outdoor setup; Graniteville Women for the refreshments; the Johnston Fire Department that offered the firehouse in case of rain and bagpiper David Hogg.
“We all did this in honor of our Graniteville War Dead,” Brown said. “Their names will live forever.”
The fallen Graniteville War Dead and the conflicts in which they died, are: World War I: Charles Ellison, Charles Forrest and Giovanni Gorzerro; World War II: Ralph Bridges Jr., Walter Charbonneau, Alfred Chartier, Raymond Draper, George Harrington Jr., Raymond Herther, William Hickey, James Patterson Jr., Joseph Searle; and William Thorpe Jr.; Korea: John Burrows; Vietnam: Ronald Blake, John Bulpitt.