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To honor fallen soldiers, ‘live a life of purpose,’ chaplain says

Memorial Day ceremony comes with poignant message

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Several hundred men, women and children braved the heat Monday morning and filled Veterans Park at Five Points to recognize, remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Speakers during the ceremony painted pictures of hopes and dreams lost and the empty chair Gold Star families face daily, a reminder of the cost of that freedom. 

In his invocation, Carl Livingston, a chaplain at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, reminded ceremony attendees of their responsibility “to live a life of purpose and fiduciary responsibility” so their sacrifice was not in vain.

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, who earlier in the month proclaimed May as Memorial Month to honor the 2.8 million who have died in service to the country, spoke of the vanished hopes and dreams of the young men and women who went into battle and didn’t return.

“Imagine the emotion of those young people, their thoughts, while they entered the battlefield,” he said. “They all had one thing in common — their love of country. “Look around and see what that freedom looks like today.”

Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson defined the fallen heroes as ordinary men and women who ended up being great because much was expected and much was done.

“What an inspiration they are,” he said.

Those young lives cut short — wives who became widows, husbands who became widowers, young children left to grow up without a parent and mothers and fathers left without a child bear the wounds of their sacrifice.

“Our hearts go out to those who didn’t come home,” Anderson said. “Today we owe a great deal of gratitude to those who sacrificed so we can live.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tennessee, 7th District, a retired Army Ranger and surgeon, spoke with great emotion of the courageous heroes with whom he served during his service in the Global War on Terrorism.

“Our warriors run to the fight,” Green said.

He recalled the medic who was shot seven times but continued to treat the wounded until he collapsed due to loss of blood. Six months later, that medic was in a helicopter heading back into the fight.

And Rob, who was past his retirement date and was waiting for a flight home when a special operations mission arose. He insisted on getting on the helicopter with his men.

“He was the first guy to go through the door when the helicopter landed,” Green said. “Unfortunately, the enemy was waiting on the other side. He died, but he never quit.”

Green remembered his friend Pat Tillman, who gave up his NFL uniform for an Army Ranger uniform “and died for that sacrifice” on April 22, 2004, and another friend, Master Sgt. James “Tres” Ponder, a Franklin native assigned to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Ponder, seven other soldiers and eight Navy SEALs were on a rescue mission when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, killing everyone.

Green said he’ll never forget seeing the last entry on Ponder’s Facebook page. It read, “I love you and I miss you, Daddy.”

“That is the price of freedom,” Green said. “That is the price this country paid in the beginning, when we formed something special. Freedom was birthed and others expanded it. We’ve helped other nations (become free), and all we’ve ever asked for is a piece of land to bury our dead, while other (countries) take land. We must celebrate days like today so others will remember.”

After the solemn wreath ceremony, the two mayors read the names on the 31 new pavers added to the walkways in Veterans Park. After the flag presentation, the county mayor presented a United States flag to Clifton Bohannon, a Gold Star family representative of PFC Jeremy Bohannon, who was killed on Aug. 5, 2007, while serving with the 59th Military Police Company, 759th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad.

The Williamson County Community Band provided patriotic music during the ceremony, members of D Company 1-327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and the 129th Army Band from the Tennessee National Guard provided the military pomp and circumstance. 

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