Veterans remembered Monday

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Bainbridge College Student Veterans of America helped spearhead a Memorial Day ceremony that the group hopes will become an annual event.

The SVA met Monday morning at Willis Park in downtown Bainbridge, leading a solemn ceremony to remember veterans, both past and present, on Memorial Day. The ceremony opened with the singing of the national anthem by Leigh Mullis, and closed with the playing of “Taps” and a salute to the U.S. flag.

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Krystle Cato, president of the college’s chapter of the SVA, said her group wanted to start a new tradition of remembering the county’s veterans on Memorial Day.

Cato said the local organizations of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have seen their membership decrease in recent years, and it simply was not possible for the groups to hold ceremonies for both holidays — Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Instead, the decision was made to focus on Veterans Day.

Cato said her group was happy to fill the void and spearheaded Monday’s ceremony.

“We’re hoping that the VFW and American Legion get their numbers back up to where we can do both holidays,” Cato said. “It’s all about supporting the veterans and what they did for us.”

Cato is a veteran, having served five-and-a-half years in the U.S. Navy. She is currently a student studying history and sociology at Bainbridge College. She noted that both of her grandfathers, as well as an uncle, are also veterans.

Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin was the guest speaker at Monday’s ceremony, which was attended by approximately 40 citizens, including Decatur County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Bainbridge Public Safety officers.

“Here at Willis Park, are the names of our neighbors that gave their lives during war time,” Griffin said. “The families of those brave Americans are still our neighbors today. I am proud to stand here and honor these men and women on this special day.”

Griffin said his family traveled to Germany in June 2010 to search for his uncle, Lt. Roy Steadham, who died when his plane was shot down while on a bombing mission in April 1944. Griffin said his family was able to find the cemetery where his uncle was buried, in Suderburg, Germany, and Steadham’s name was eventually added to the county’s veterans memorial.

“My appreciation increased greatly for the sacrifices made by our war heroes as my knowledge increased about the Decatur County veterans that sacrificed their lives for our freedom that we enjoy today,” he said. “I now realize that in every crowd, there could possibly be a hero that is a war veteran. In ‘my book,’ every veteran is a hero.”