Patriotic ceremony draws big crowd

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Special ceremony Democrat Photo/Melonie Roberts Many came to the Southwest Area Career Center this past weekend to view the exhibit honoring Missouri soldiers who had given their lives in active military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the photo above, Bob Painter and Nick Sczenski of Hobbs-Anderson American Legion Post #91 demonstrated how the Flag of the United States of American is properly folded, while Dan Musgrave, 15th District Legion Commander, read the meaning of the folds.

A large crowd gathered for the "Remembering Our Fallen - from Missouri" ceremony that took place on Saturday at the Southwest Area Career Center (SWACC) in Monett.

Judge Mike Garrett opened with remarks of the 134 soldiers depicted in photos against American flag backdrops.

"I am impressed at how young these men and women were, and saddened at the loss of their potential," Garrett said. "They have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect all that you and I hold dear -- faith, family and freedom."

Teresa Stark

A mother's comments

Gold Star Mother Teresa Stark then spoke of her son, Army Specialist Christopher Stark, who was killed in action on Feb. 28, 2011, in Afghanistan.

"As I watched today, the JROTC posting the colors and greeting us at the door, I had to think about September in 2004," she continued. "Everyone was running around getting ready for school, and Christopher yelled at me to come check him out.

"It was the first time he had his uniform on," Stark recalled. "He was a cadet in the inaugural class of the JROTC here in Monett. I looked him over and couldn't say anything. I had to step back and I thought, 'This little boy I once had is becoming a man.'

"As I watched the cadets posting colors, I remembered Christopher was in the color guard," she continued. "They had their first competition in Arkansas and came home with third place. Those boys were so proud.

"He stood with pride when he wore his uniform," Stark said. "He served with pride and loved what he did."

Stark read off the Army's core values, taught in basic training to every young soldier who joins: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

"These are what these cadets, what military personnel across the country, stand for," Stark said. "Policemen, firemen. It's what we all stand for.

"Last Memorial Day became a whole different reflection for me," Stark continued. "I'm guilty of doing some of those things [spoken of previously by Orr]. I apologize now to the ones who protect our freedoms that I did that, until I lost my son. Sometimes things happen before we have a reality check."

Stark went on to describe the great pride she felt for the Monett community and those who supported her family in the days following the loss of her son.

"Last year, when we rounded the corner to go to Jolly Mill for the funeral, I sat in amazement at the sea of flags," Stark said. "For eight miles. That made me smile. In this day and age where we have such a disconnect from God and country and core values, for hundreds of people to stand outside waving flags, it was amazing.

"Not one vehicle passed us on the road," she continued. "Truck drivers, motorists, all pulled over and saluted or held their hats in their hands.

"I knew that day what Christopher had died for," Stark said. "They stopped, not for him, but for what he represented and the love of our country."

Stark also spoke of the peace that has engulfed her since hearing the news of her son's death.

"This year has been a walk that never in a million years I would have guessed I would have walked," she said. "Christmas 2011, I had a strong sense of peace. What an awesome experience it must be to celebrate your first Christmas in Heaven. In my book, it doesn't get any better than that.

"Don't get me wrong," she continued. "Christmas was filled with all kinds of emotions. But at the end of the day, what mother could not want a better gift for her son that eternal love on Christmas day?"

Recognition for heroes

The names of all Missouri's fallen soldiers were read by representatives of the Monett Police Department, Monett Fire Department, Tom Wolfe Memorial Post #4207 Veterans of Foreign Wars, Hobbs-Anderson Post #91 American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The audience observed a moment of silence for the fallen.

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