Asheville and Buncombe County pay tribute to fallen veterans and emergency responders

Members of the Reuter Center Singers sing the national anthem as the Asheville High School JROTC present the colors during the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

“For most people, Memorial Day is all about things like barbecues, swimming pools, ball games or even drinking a local craft brew during Asheville Beer Week — it’s simply the Monday of a three-day holiday weekend that marks the start of summer,” said Major General Rick Devereaux, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force during his remarks at the Asheville-Buncombe Memorial Day celebration. “But for the more thoughtful, I would argue this is our most sobering national holiday.”

Despite gray skies and sporadic rain showers, a crowd of more than 200 gathered in Pack Square Park on May 29 to pay tribute to fallen veterans and local emergency responders. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman and representatives from different branches of the military, as well as local police and fire departments, presented a wreath to honor the fallen.

“This is not a day for honoring veterans, that’s Veteran’s Day. It’s not a day for recognizing active-duty service members, that’s Armed Forces Day. And frankly, it’s not even a day to celebrate our freedom and democracy, that’s Independence Day. No, this is Memorial Day, the day that we honor those who did not come back, those who are not here today,” Devereaux said.

Veterans from all military branches and wars since World War II filled the crowded park. During the ceremony, veterans were invited to stand as the 82nd Airborne Division Brass Quintet, which is based at Ft. Bragg, played songs of the armed forces.

During his remarks, Devereaux solemnly stated that 20 Asheville residents have been killed in combat since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While that may seem like a small fraction of the city’s population, he said, it makes the magnitude of each and every sacrifice incalculable.

“I don’t want to imply that every war our nation has fought has been totally just, or that our objectives were always pure, or that our strategies were always perfect. But what we can say is that when America has gone to war, its men and women have fought and died for the right reason, putting the life and liberty of their fellow citizens ahead of their own,” Devereaux said.

Larry Wilbanks was just one of the many veterans in attendance. After serving in the U.S. Army 1964-1967, he said, he views the holiday differently than most.

“I’m here to honor our veterans that gave the ultimate sacrifice. I guess to me, that means the attachment to whoever that person might be, or the love of your country and all the freedoms we have,” he said. “We’re a lucky country.”

Daniel Lowman, a junior at T.C. Roberson High School, decided to spend his day off from school passing out American flags at the event with his Boy Scout troop. Although neither he nor any of his immediate family members have served in the military, he still feels the importance of the holiday.

“Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices that other people have made,” Lowman said. “In current society, a lot of people don’t really show gratitude for what they have, and so Memorial Day is a time to think back and realize a lot of people made the ultimate sacrifice so we can be happy on a day-to-day basis and have a good quality of life.”

The ceremony concluded with patriotic anthems by the Reuter Center Singers, a rifle volley salute by the Asheville Police Department and a moment of silence to honor the fallen.

“As tragic as the United States’ wars have been, without the collective sacrifice of the brave dead we honor today, this wonderful experiment called the United States of America simply would not exist,” Devereaux said. “And furthermore, this freewheeling, diverse, eclectic place called Asheville, N.C., would not enjoy the unique freedoms that make this city, our city, so special.”

All photos by Molly Horak

Members of the military and local emergency responders go to present a wreath to honor those who have fallen.
Two wreaths stand in the Veteran’s Memorial in Pack Square Park.
A Marine Corps veteran stands to be honored as the 82nd Airborne Division All American Brass Quintet plays the songs of the armed forces.
Local law enforcement stand to be recognized during Monday’s ceremony.
Ceremony attendees bow their heads during a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives in combat.
Students from Asheville High School’s JROTC march forward to present the colors as members of the Reuter Center Singers stand to sing the national anthem.
Several Boy Scouts passed out small American flags before the ceremony started.
A boy gets an American flag painted on his face before the ceremony officially begins.
About Molly Horak
Molly is a sophomore Journalism and Political Science student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is spending her summer working with the Mountain Xpress, exploring in the mountains, and drinking excessive amounts of coffee.

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5 thoughts on “Asheville and Buncombe County pay tribute to fallen veterans and emergency responders

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    Did they invite LEOs and retired military speak about supporting …the oath that they can take publicly to pledge their protection of the PEOPLE/CITIZENS rather than the government in times of turmoil ? ? ?

    Surely wish Oathkeepers people would have made themselves known … Next time you see an APD officer or a Sheriff’s deputy, ask them if they are an OATHKEEPER ! ! ! I have met one from APD thus far, but he said there are MORE! Thankfully!

    • bsummers

      Yes, please. Law enforcement officers that have secretly joined an outside rightwing militia-type organization, please do identify yourselves.

  2. Deplorable Infidel

    Why do you tell complete LIES ? They are the TRUE patriots among us. Your lack of understanding is troubling as usual.

    • bsummers

      Disagreeing is not the same as not understanding. I think I understand just fine. You only need to skim through the oathkeepers website to see who they are. Don’t like me calling them a “militia”? Hey, just check out today’s news story:

      Top Republican To Use MILITIA For Personal Safety After Liberal TERRORISTS Issue Threats

      “I am sort of evolving to the point where I think that it is appropriate for Republicans to continue to go out there and if they need to have a security force protecting them, that’s an appropriate thing too. There are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters,” he added.

      They’re basically referring to themselves as a militia in this article. Right. A couple of “liberals” get stabbed to death by a crazed alt-right idiot, and this becomes a way for conservatives to act like they’re the victims here. As the Orange One says, “Sad.”

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    ok, then…nothing wrong with that…just an extension of patriotism…duh.

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