Monday is Memorial Day. That’s right. The weekend every year that ushers in the carefree days of summer. Picnics, beach vacations, Fourth of July fireworks, bike riding, trips to the mountains, working in the yard and going to the farmers market are all summer activities with which we busy ourselves. I anticipate the pandemic will put a lid on most of those activities ... but maybe not.

I drove to Roswell last weekend to take some pictures for a story I’m working on about the women of the Roswell Mills. It is an interesting story that took place in July 1864. Anyway, I took my bike with me and rode the Chattahoochee River bike trails. The parking lots were full and there were a lot of people walking and riding bicycles. And many people were canoeing, kayaking, rowing and tubing on the Chattahoochee River. If Roswell is any indication, maybe our summer activities are saved!

A day when we remember

Memorial Day is a day on which we remember those soldiers who gave their lives in service to this great country of ours. The focus of today’s column is on young men from Floyd County who were killed in World War I, and a Tuskegee airman from South Carolina who was killed in World War II. With courage these young men answered our country’s call to service. They became soldiers and carried out their orders with unwavering courage ... and they all had a family they left behind when duty called.

A Georgia boy enlists

Native Roman Charles Graves enlisted in the United States Army on Aug. 16, 1917. He was 18 years of age when he was sent to Neuroy, France. Charles knew nothing about this unfamiliar place. On Oct. 15, 1918, this Georgia boy was too far from home when he was killed by German artillery. He received full military honors and a military burial in France. On Nov. 11, 1923, Charles was buried at Myrtle Hill Cemetery as America’s Known Soldier.

A weathered, and faded World War I monument, which stands next to the old Carnegie Library, memorializes 37 young men from Floyd County who were killed in World War I. A. Walter Shanklin, William J. Attaway, Charles Graves, George B. Chidsey, and Leon V. Walker are among the names listed on the monument.

World War II

The Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American and Caribbean-born military pilots, fought in World War II. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.

On Dec. 23, 1944, Capt. Lawrence Dickson of the 100th Fighter Squadron took off in his P-51 Mustang fighter plane from a base in Italy. His mission was to conduct aerial reconnaissance. During the return flight, Dickson’s engine failed and his plane was seen crashing along the Italy-Austria border. Among the items recovered from the crash site was a harmonica Dickson carried with him during flights. Capt. Dickson was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

All gave some. Some gave all.

Memorial Day is a time for remembering that, in service to our county, all gave some ... some gave all. I think about Capt. Dickson, as well as Charles Graves and the other young men from Floyd County who were killed in those wars, years ago, far from home. I wonder what those men were like. Did they have a girlfriend at home whom they planned to marry? Were they a star athlete at the high school they attended? Did they sing in the choir at the church they attended?

Each soldier has a story

Dickson, Attaway, Chidsey, Graves, Shanklin and Walker each had stories about their lives. Stories about where they were from, their families, beach vacations, trips to the mountains and the fun they had hunting, fishing and camping. When these soldiers were killed, their friends and families grieved. But the friends and families told those stories over and again — which kept the soldiers’ memories alive.

Freedom is not free

On Memorial Day 2020, we will remember Capt. Dickson, Charles Graves, A. Walter Shanklin, William J. Attaway, George B. Chidsey, and Leon V. Walker and a host of others, all of whom fought for our freedom. Far more than names on a monument, when we think of these fine young men, we are reminded that freedom is not free. We must not ever forget that — remembering all the while that all gave some ... and some gave all.

Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, an avid cyclist, history enthusiast, and an ardent reader of Southern fiction. She is the author of “People, Places, and Memories of Rome.” Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.

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