BLUEFIELD, WV (WVNS) — After not being able to have any ceremonies last year, veterans and community members from across Mercer County gathered in Downtown Bluefield for an event put on by the American Legion Riley-Vest Post 9.
Those in attendance said getting to honor those who gave their lives was more impactful this year.
“It is absolutely wonderful after this last year to have the ceremony and to be able to congregate with people and talk about why this day is important,” said Debbie Krabbe.
The annual ceremony featured guest speakers, a moment of silence, the playing of taps, and a 21 gun salute. Among the riflemen was the event’s M-Cee, Tom Helton. Helton is a veteran and a member of the Veterans Honor Guard. He said many veterans wonder why they were the ones who got to come home, and he feels the need to continue to honor his brothers who did not.
“They sacrificed their tomorrows so that we could have our todays, and for that reason every day is Memorial Day,” said Helton, who served in the Army from 1970-72.
As a member of the Mercer County Veterans Honor Guard, Helton travels across southern West Virginia to participate in ceremonies and funerals. All to keep their memory alive and to be there for the families who also sacrificed.
“It is both a ministry and a mission to serve the families and our fallen comrades, so it is something we take seriously and are dedicated to,” said Helton.
David Linkous served in Vietnam from 1969-70, and for him, seeing his fallen brothers honored every year means even more because he never thought a Vietnam veteran would get that kind of treatment. He also had a message for those currently deployed.
“Just to hang in there, we are praying for you. I know it is hard when you are away from home like that, but we are praying for you each and every day,” said Linkous.
As the wife of a retired command sergeant major, Krabbe said she attended more funerals than she cares to remember. She said the best way to honor their lives is to remember their sacrifice and protect each other the way they protected us.
“And be kind to one another because their lives, what’s it mean if we don’t take this forward as Americans and treat each other with kindness and care,” said Krabbe.