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Veterans, families celebrate Memorial Day with ceremony in Tupelo

2 min read

Tupelo veterans, their families, and local officials gathered at Veterans Memorial Park on Monday morning to celebrate a 150-year tradition of honoring those who served and gave their lives for the United States and its people.

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, began in 1868, following the Civil War, to remember the lives of veterans who died while serving in the military by placing flowers on their graves. To celebrate the federal holiday, which occurs on the final Monday in May each year, the city of Tupelo holds a service to honor its veterans.

“We are here to remember and honor the ones that never made it home,” Mayor Todd Jordan told the crowd gathered in the east Tupelo park, itself home to multiple monuments honoring those who served.

This year’s speaker, Maj. General Doug Hayhurst, is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served a combined 52 years, touring in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and Iraq over his career. Hayhurst also served in the Mississippi State Guard, commanding it from 2016 to 2021.

Hayhurst said Memorial day is special, for some it is the “unofficial start of summer,” but it is foremost a moment to reflect on our nation and those that sacrificed themselves to uphold its values.

“We must not forget why this day came into existence,” he said. “As Americans, we owe a debt of gratitude to those that have made that ultimate sacrifice, men and women who put on a uniform, raised their right hand and swore an oath to support and defend at any cost these freedoms we enjoy. Let us not remember how they died, but how they lived.”

On this day of remembrance, Hayhurst said it is important to remember who stands to protect the nation and its unalienable rights.

“It’s the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It’s the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It’s the soldiers, not the politicians, that ensure us the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

The ceremony included a performance by the Belden Student Choir, singing the national anthem and “God Bless the USA,” by Lee Greenwood. Sgt. Derrick Usher performed taps. Lieutenant Colonel Ben Inmon gave the invocation.

“As our nation pauses to remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice, we give thanks to these men and women and their families,” Lt. Col. Ben Inmon said during his prayer. “They sacrificed their lives fighting for our freedom, fighting for the freedom of others and fighting for justice. They willingly went, knowing they wouldn’t return the same.”

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