The Evening Exchange Club of Lake Norman, the Troutman Exchange Club, and the Town of Troutman hosted the second annual Walk of Heroes flag display along the Richardson Greenway over the past ten days. The patriotic display culminated with a Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday morning at the ESC Park Pavilion.

After the Presentation of the Colors by the South Iredell High School MJROTC Color Guard and the National Anthem sung by Gusti McGee, Pastor John Stevenson of Troutman Baptist Church asked that the ultimate sacrifice given by so many be blessed and remembered.

Troutman Town Manager Ron Wyatt thanked the Exchange Clubs for putting on the patriotic display and the community members who bought the 250 flags to support the club’s fundraising efforts.

Evening Exchange Club President Marie Watts invited community members to get involved in Exchange Clubs, whose projects focus on Americanism, community service, youth, and the prevention of child abuse.

Watts shared that a woman visited the flag display over the weekend, telling Exchange members that she had the funeral directors drive her husband’s body by the flag display on Friday before his burial to honor his patriotism.

“That’s why we do what we do,” added Watts.

Veteran John Galina, co-founder and CEO of Purple Heart Homes and president of the Troutman Exchange Club, said he hopes the Walk of Heroes continues to expand each year to cover the entire greenway, demonstrating that Troutman “is truly the most patriotic city in North Carolina.”

Galina then shared a Memorial Day message about the mission of wearing a United States military uniform over the past 251 years. The U.S. Constitution that soldiers swear an oath to is not only inspirational to America and its freedom, but it is as a symbol of freedom for the world.

A total of 44 million individuals have served in an American military uniform since the Revolutionary War, with over 1,340,000 suffering combat-related deaths.

After the Civil War, families and community members from both sides began holding remembrance ceremonies for soldiers. Congress later declared the last Monday in May as the official national Memorial Day in 1971.

Galina drew a parallel between the soldier’s calling and Christ’s counsel to love our neighbor as ourselves and that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.”

“The connecting piece for us is that we are willing to serve and sacrifice for our families and our friends,” he said.

“They serve with honor, exhibiting public virtue for the greater food out of love. They lay down their lives and therefore deserve our respect.”

“When I think of all the losses we have had to sustain defense of America’s freedoms, I recall the profound words of General George Patton: ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died but rather to thank God that such men lived.’”

“In their selfless service and selfless sacrifice, out of love for us and our future, we owe it to them and their families to not squander what has been entrusted to us. Rather, we should give of our time and talents, continuing to build our communities and support our neighbors in our collective pursuit of happiness.”

“Because of the sacrifice of the fallen, we are afford an opportunity to live and experience freedom. Therefore, take time and give pause and praise to God that such men and women have lived.”

“Let us not just remember them one day a year but rather carry then in our hearts, encouraged, inspired, and motivated to do more for others and live our best life. … Remembering doesn’t cost anything; however, forgetting those who went before us may very well cost the next generation their life and their freedom.”

Charles Williams of Bunch-Johnson Funeral Home, the Walk of Heroes presenting sponsor, next read Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” which shares the perspective of fallen soldiers lying beneath fields of poppies, exhorting those still above to take up their cause and carry their torch high so they may sleep in peace.

After the Armed Service branches songs were played and veterans of each branch applauded, members of the American Legion Post 65 from Statesville presented the 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of “Taps” by trumpeter Diane Wilson.

Walk of Heroes Chair Beth Preston thanked all sponsors, including Bunch-Johnson and gold level sponsors Purple Heart Homes, Ottinger Enterprises LLC, K2 Sports, and Structure Medical. Silver level were the Ebert Foundation, Madd Monkey Garage, Preston Realty, Pro Advantage, Concrete Solutions, Universal Remodeling, Blonde Moments 2, Cedar Stump Pub, Sawyer Insurance, and Westside Twins. Bronze level included Burritos N Ribs, J&S Fab, Lake Norman Realty, Pellegrinos, Sedgewick Homes, Triangle Insurance, Victory Press, Vintage Restoration, Home Town Team, Eyes on the Lake Optometry, Lake Norman Patio, and Today’s Audio Video.

The organizers also appreciated in-kind contributions from Palm Street Studio LL, Sign Shop, Your Coffee Place, Lisa Crates Photography, and WHIP.

After the ceremony, the Iredell County Fraternal Order of Police provided hot dogs and chips for community members to enjoy.

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