Memorial Day is not just another holiday in Phillips County. For the past six years, a group spearheaded by Marvell's Mary Ned Foster and calling themselves Arkansans United for Veterans has organized an annual salute and tribute to war veterans – survivors and those who paid the ultimate price for our nation's freedom.
This marks the sixth year for the now traditional Memorial Day celebration. Last year, more than 500 people from across Arkansas were in attendance for the ceremony held at The Tri- County Fairgrounds in Marvell. The visitors flocking to Phillips County included many veterans and their families.
The event will begin promptly at 11 a.m. and will conclude with a complimentary lunch around 1 p.m.
State Representative Col. John Edwards will serve as the keynote speaker. A member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2009, Edwards is a colonel in the National Guard and served a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. In the private sector, he is an attorney, a landowner and a member of Southern Bancorp's Board of Directors. Edwards was instrumental in getting legislation rolling regarding a new state nursing home facility for Arkansas veterans.
State and local dignitaries expected to attend and participate in Monday's celebration include: State Senator Keith Ingram, State Representative Chris Richey, State Representative Reginald Murdock, Phillips County Judge Don Gentry and several representatives of local and state veteran organizations.
LTC Cory Sailor, 39th Brigade Support Battalion commander, will be in charge of the program that is scheduled to include the presentation of the colors, the National Anthem performed by SFC Willis chambers of the 39th BSB and the Pledge of Allegiance by Sgt. John Thomas Hartsell.
According to Foster, all veterans will be honored, including the oldest living veterans in attendance. Specials guests from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Just Cause and Desert, Shield/Desert Storm are expected to be on hand.
Major Earl Farr (retired) will offer a special tribute to the prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Prior to the ceremony at 10 a.m., former Arkansas Razorback Harry Steelman will bring back his amazing private exhibit of military memorabilia from World War I to the present. During the ceremony, there will be a special tribute to “Fallen Soldiers.”
Make plans now to attend this moving tribute to our soldiers. Again, the site will be the Fairgrounds Pavilion in Marvell, located on the appropriately named Veterans Memorial Highway.