Gloria Richardson couldn't hold back her tears when she heard her brother's name mentioned during Memorial Day ceremonies Sunday afternoon at the Carl Vinson VA auditorium. In 1968, her brother Jimmy Bedgood was killed in action in Vietnam. The loss was compounded by the fact that she lost her personal guardian, one whom she could turn to in times of crisis. Her mother, Louise Purvis, had been at the ceremonies before. In fact, the Gold Star Mother has been present at every Memorial Day and Veterans Day service at the VA since 1968 with the exception of the time she was too ill in an Augusta hospital.
A small group of family and friends of fallen heroes, along with the purely patriotic, gathered together on Sunday afternoon to pay homage to those American servicemen who gave their lives in defense of our country. Emcee Johnny Payne, a former combat veteran of the Vietnam War, welcomed the audience. Harriett Claxton, representing the John Laurens Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, led the recitation of the American's Creed and the Pledge of Allegiance. After Rhonda Hambrick sung the National Anthem, a combined honor guard of the Dublin Police Department and the Laurens County Fire Department posted the colors.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Steven Greer, of Eastman, Georgia. Dr. Greer is a professor of terrorism and security studies at American Military University and serves on the Center for Security Policy Military Committee in Washington, DC. Greer was a former special assistant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and served as the only retired Non-commissioned Officer on the Secretary's Military Analyst Group. He served as a Senior Fellow at the National Defense Council Foundation conducting research on terrorism and briefed members of Congress on detainee policy issues.
Between 2003 and 2008 he gave more than 400 television and radio interviews on Fox, CNN and other national programs. A twenty-year Army veteran, Greer competed four times in the Grange Best Ranger Competition, the most physically and mentally challenging 3-day competition in the world. The son of an Army soldier served as a Ranger Squad Leader, Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant, Special Forces A-Detachment Sergeant, Instructor at the Special Warfare Center, Infantry Company First Sergeant, Commandant of the Light-fighters School, and Command Sergeant Major for two light infantry battalions and one infantry brigade. At 33 years of age, he was selected as one of the youngest Sergeants Major in Army history.
"I think its encouraging that the seats aren't filled, because the reason that I and others went off to battle was so that we can do the things we enjoy doing in a free society," the former Sergeant Major said in commenting on the small crowd in attendance. "I was fighting so that I can come home and pitch with my son, do something with my daughter, hug my wife, grill or drive my pickup truck," said the veteran special forces expert. Greer reflected back on the twenty-one close friends he had lost in battle. "We are so fortunate that in this country that we have men and women of courage, character, and confidence to go to places like Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea, Europe and France to fight for our freedoms," he added. Greer challenged the young members of the audience that none of things they enjoy today come from communism, totalitarianism, and dictatorships. "It only happens under democracy. Greer stated as he summed up his message by saying, "When you grow up do yourself a favor and serve your nation and serve well because it has served you. Do something for your country before we no longer have a country that will do something for you."
Greer reminisced about the friends he lost in Afghanistan, especially MSG "Chief" Carlson, a descendant of the Black Feet Indian tribe and the toughest soldier he ever met in the United States Army. Carlson, after 21 years in the Army as a Special Forces expert, volunteered to return to Afghanistan as a member of the CIA, only to be killed in the line of duty.
After the conclusion of Dr. Greer's remarks, Chandler M. Beasley, Sr. rose from his wheel chair at the back of the auditorium and carried a memorial wreath as he walked solemnly to the front of the stage. The former Marine and veteran of the Pacific Theater in World War II snapped to attention and saluted the memory of our fallen heroes, many of whom he had to leave behind on the island beaches and jungles of the Pacific. After the war, Beasley joined the reorganized National Guard Unit in Dublin and served for thirty-three years.
Refreshments were served by members of the First Baptist Church. On Monday afternoon at 3 p.m, a Moment of Silence was held, and the colors were retired. The National Moment of Remembrance was established in 2000 after a group of school children answered what Memorial Day meant to them by saying, "that's the day the pools open."