Rockmart veterans held a Memorial Day service Sunday afternoon, honoring the sacrifice of all American soldiers killed in action and

remembering local veterans who have passed away over the past year.

Vaden Underwood, Senior Vice Commander of American Legion Brown-Wright Post 12 in Rockmart, introduced guest speaker Ken Suffridge. A past chairman of the Polk County Chamber of Commerce and a member of various boards and committees, Suffridge is actively engaged in public service to Polk County residents, Underwood said.

Suffridge said too many Americans fail to recognize the significance of Memorial Day. Formerly known as Decoration Day, this date commemorates U.S. Service Members who died while in the military service, Suffridge reminded.

“A lot of people consider Memorial Day just the first day of summer,” Suffridge said. “We all know it is a whole lot more than that."

“We are here to honor all of our fallen,” he said. “And we are hear to say to them, ‘We love you, we miss you, and we thank you.’”

Suffridge spoke at length about the life of Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I. Buckles passed away Feb. 27 this year, at the age of 110, and was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 15.

His passing was barely noted by the national media, Suffridge said.

That’s a shame, he said, as he began relating some of Buckles’ accomplishments.

Buckles drove an ambulance during World War I. During World War II, he was working for a shipping company as a civilian in Manila, in the Philippines, when the Japanese military invaded. Buckles spent more than three years as a civilian internee in the Santo Tomas and Los Baños prison camps. Among Buckles’ later accomplishments was bringing attention to Congress of the lack of a national World War I memorial in Washington D.C., Suffridge noted.

Buckles was the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, which seeks refurbishment of the District of Columbia War Memorial and its establishment as the National World War I Memorial on the National Mall.

Buckles made his last appeal in support of that effort last year, in a Veterans Day (Armistice Day) address.

Buckles said: “We still do not have a national memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor the Americans who sacrificed with their lives during World War I. … On this 92nd anniversary of the armistice, it is time to move forward with honor, gratitude and resolve.”

Honoring the deceased

Also in Sunday’s ceremony, Underwood read a list of local veterans who have passed away since last year’s Memorial Day service.

They include:

Tom Aiken, Gene Austin, Fred Bond, Horace Borders, Arthur Burnely, Ray Burnley, Horace Clark, Wendell Cochran, Harold Compton Sr.; Charles Eaves, Robert Forsyth, Claudia Gaston, Farley Haney, Caswell Dean Hitchcock, Richard Hodges Sr., J.B. Holland; Fred Kitchens, John Lanier, William Lumpkin, James Maxville Jr., Alfred Morgan, Thomas Pittman; Ray Sanford, Ben Shyle, Pete Simmons, Jackie Simpson, James Sorrells, William Watkins, Francis White, Sonny White and Carl Wilson.

Also participating in Sunday’s ceremony were the American Legion Riders, who advanced the colors. Bill Sherfesse sang the National Anthem and Mary Catherine Noles sang “God Bless the USA.” The Rev. Rebecca Holmes gave the invocation and the Rev. Trey Chambers gave the benediction. Tina Noles, First Vice President of the Unit 12 Legion Auxiliary, laid the wreath at the beginning of the ceremony.

The color-guard for the event consisted of Ed Burnley, Ron Campbell, Rickey F. Crutchfield, Robert Furr, Larry Lawhorn, Gina Rhoden, James Tramell, P.J. Tufts and Vaden Underwood.