The service was moved from the lawn of the courthouse after brief rainshower swooped through the area around 15 minutes before the opening. The misfortune turned into fortune as the newly renovated second floor area and the courtroom were utilized, presenting an opportunity to show off the recent upgrade.
Chamber president Joe Buck Coates welcomed the crowd of around 80. The colors were presented by the Hazlehurst High School JROTC. Alice Moreland, a member of the DAR, lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Rick Munn, music minister at First Baptist Church sang our national anthem. Rev. Arthur Lewis, pastor of New Zion UMC in Crystal Springs performed the opening prayer.
After an introduction by president Coates, Brigadier General Phillip R. Fisher of the Mississippi Army National Guard, spoke to the crowd. Fisher thanked the veterans in attendance for their service to the country. He emphasized that their sacrifice, along with the ultimate sacrifice paid by over 1,200,000 fellow soldiers since the American Revolution, has ensured that our basic rights remain intact.
“‘We, the people’, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our veterans, living or dead. Nobody is more important,” Fisher said.
The sacrifice of the American soldier is a great example of what Americans need to be, Fisher added. “When you are willing to die for someone else’s freedom, you have spoken words that are bigger than anything else,” he said.
Fisher also noted that America does not go to war to conquer peoples. We fight wars to liberate those who have been conquered, and introduce a new way of life to them that emphasizes freedom, liberty and the preservation of self-determination, he explained.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Hazlehurst native and Co-Lin student Twyla Jefferson performed ‘Taps’. After the benediction by Rev. Lewis, a memorial wreath was placed at the foot of the Copiah County War Memorial by Hazlehurst police officer Arthur Harris.