Michael Schwartz, a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief and member of the Carl Boyd Post 42, spoke to the crowd on the importance of stirring the fires of patriotism. Schwartz defined a patriot as anyone who loves, supports or defends his or her nation with devotion and self-sacrifice. He urged attendees to continue to remember those who died in the service of their country.
“One million three hundred thousand people have died for our country and we must not forget their sacrifice. We must keep our patriotism close to our heart and loud in our voice,” Schwartz said.
“Our Founding Fathers formed a more perfect union and the rest of the world is striving to model it. Really when you think about it, it was amazing. No government on the earth, at the time, was run with the people choosing their leaders. We must defend the Constitution and continue to strive to make America great,” he said.
Last September Schwartz cycled 2,600 miles across America to raise awareness and funds for veterans.
“While visiting a VA hospital in Phoenix last year, I met an elderly vet in a wheelchair. As he was being fed his dinner by an attendant, I asked if I could talk to him. He had a Marine Corps hat on covered in metals. You could tell this man was a real, live hero. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and spent 33 years in the Corps. I asked if he got many visitors and he told me everyone he knew was dead. His family, his friends and those he served with were all dead. He said, ‘I feel like a trophy that’s been put on a shelf.’ We cannot allow this to happen. We need to visit our vets and make sure they are honored for their sacrifice. We cannot forget them,’” Schwartz said.
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor attended the ceremony.
“My dad and my wife’s dad served and that is why were are here, to honor their service. It’s great to be here and honor all the veterans that are here and pay our respects for those that have went on before,” he said.
“One of the most important parts of a celebration for Memorial Day is to focus on what the holiday actually is. A lot of people have turned it into a day off work and a barbecue, and it really is to remember those who died in service of country,” Schwartz said. “So the best thing we can do is to attend events like this and tell those who survived that we grateful. Just remembering and taking the opportunity to thank the soldiers and veterans are some of the best ways we can celebrate the spirit of Memorial Day.”
Post Commander Elect Glen Thompson said the American Legion played a large part in communities from the 1920s through the 1950s. “As life got busy, we have gotten lost somewhere in the mix. It is our goal to bring back the American Legion and make it a place not only for veterans but also for civilians. People don’t have to put on a uniform to be patriotic; it is something from the heart.”
Thompson said the goal of Post 42 is to bring back the understanding of the importance of the American Legion and to be caretakers of the organization until the next generation steps forward take the reins.
Post Commander Dale Cockrill said part of the American Legion’s outreach to the community is to keep patriotism in the forefront in Bartow County.
“We want to promote Americanism — it’s what we want to promote and safeguard,” he said.