By MELINDA WILLIAMS
“It’s not about sadness and grief, rather about honor, respect, duty and patriotism,” United Auto Workers (UAW) 2069 Veteran’s Committee Chairman Mark Peterson said of Memorial Day and the message that will be delivered by guest speakers during Saturday’s UAW Veterans Ride for Freedom/Run to the Wall.
“This year, we’re excited to have two great speakers with an educational and motivational background,” said Peterson.
“Surely the audience will go home and, through the weekend, have something to think about. Our hope is to instill a new patriotism and a love of God and Country.
“It’s important to keep in perspective what Memorial Day is all about and why we observe it. Our speakers will deliver this message … it’s going to be a special morning,” he said.
The annual ceremony begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 24, on the lawn of the UAW union hall, across Cougar Trail from the Volvo Trucks North America Dublin plant. The event pays homage to members of the military who lost their lives defending freedom and those who never returned home because they went missing in action (MIA) or were prisoners of war (POW).
Following the ceremony, hundreds of motorcycles will leave the union hall at 9:30 a.m. en route to Washington, D.C. for the annual POW-MIA Rally called Rolling Thunder.
They keynote speaker for this year’s Memorial Day ceremony at the union hall is Mary Lou Summers, widow of the late Rear Admiral John D. Summers.
A graduate of Radford College and Virginia Tech, Summers “has an extensive military background,” according to Peterson. In addition to being retiring from teaching at Montgomery County Public Schools after 33 years, he said, Summers “remains very active in life and holds several positions dealing with military and civic organizations.”
Summers is a member of the Allegheny Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Roanoke Chapter of the Military Officers Association, and she chairs and serves as an ambassador of the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery Volunteers Committee.
“Mary Lou is a great lady and will surely add to a special morning,” Peterson said.
Vietnam Navy veteran, author and motivational speaker Jerry Haynes of Fries will also address the crowd. A Virginia Tech alumnus who served in Vietnam 1971-1975, Haynes is the author of four novels and has his own blog/website: bringinghopeandhappiness.com.
“Jerry is a real role model and patriot, he’ll carry a great message,” said Peterson.
In addition to “Amazing Grace” being played on bagpipes, posting of the colors, a 21-gun salute and “Taps,” Peterson said “those who enjoy the big guns” always enjoy the firing of the canon.
“Bobby Surface, a veterans committee member, states our nation was founded and formed by muskets and cannonballs,” said Peterson. “Our intention is to salute our forefathers and their vision. They, too, sacrificed in many, many ways that formed our country. The birth of this great land came at great cost — the blood of our countrymen, the sacrifice of their families. Sadly but honorably, the sacrifice continues still to this day.”
Military vehicles will also be on display, along with the 2014 Ride for Freedom Volvo truck (see related story). This years Ride for Freedom truck carries a special theme that Peterson called “thought provoking” and “educational.”
He added, “Among the hundreds of thousands of veterans that will view it over the weekend, it will carry some sort of healing measure with it.”