FLORENCE, Ala. — Monday morning, Veterans Memorial Park in Florence was filled with people for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony.
It’s a return to what was once a familiar sight before the coronavirus pandemic, with 2020’s ceremony being strictly virtual.
Mayor Andy Betterton said he’s thankful for the opportunity to gather once again safely to honor and remember the fallen.
“It certainly makes me excited to be not only a citizen of the area but a citizen of this country,” Betterton said. “We’ve got some exciting things to remember as a community, as a nation, and I’m just delighted we’re able to be back out here today.”
Event organizer and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Steen first spoke on the difference between Veterans Day—a day to honor those who have served, and Memorial Day—a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“You are remembering them on a certain day, and you convert that into some type of action,” Steen said. “You may convert it into the action of hanging a flag up, you may go to a cemetery, you may come to one of these, you may go visit some veterans—lots of things that you do.”
For Steen, it’s personal because not only did he serve but he also knew several of the men listed on memorial markers in the park including two classmates and a cousin.
The theme for this year’s ceremony was “Freedom is Not Free, Some Paid All.” It’s a somber day of remembrance that Steen says is deserving of proper reverence.