It’s one thing to remember America’s military personnel who have died in service to their country by seeing their names on memorial walls or tombstones, but far too many have not even received that honor.
“There are those who left and never came back and nobody knows what happened to them,” said Paul Madren, a local Korean War veteran who will be guest speaker for Mount Airy’s annual Memorial Day Service next Monday.
It is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the city war memorial at the corner of South Main and Rockford streets, where the names of Surry County’s war dead from all U.S. conflicts are listed. Many veterans and members of the public tend to come out and show their respects each year.
In addition to remarks from the special speaker, Monday’s event will include a traditional slate of patriotic music, a wreath placement at the memorial and other activities appropriately paying tribute to America’s military personnel who have died in service to their country.
Along with Madren, city officials are on the program along with an annual appearance by members of the North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC and Memorial Honor Guard units from both Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain.
Madren is a veteran of the Air Force whose military activities during the Korean War consisted of serving with a reconnaissance squadron as an electronics radio engineer and specialist.
Its main mission was to fly F-80 Sabre jets equipped with cameras along a river separating North and South Korea and nearby roadways while recording activities such as troop movements.
“We were were in a battle zone for a year or so,” Madren, who will turn 92 on March 31, added Monday.
“We flew every morning and every night,” he had mentioned during a 2021 interview.
During past Memorial Day programs in Mount Airy, much attention has been focused on the lists of names listed on city war memorial, which once again will be the subject of a wreath-laying ceremony.
Yet there is another side of the equation that makes Memorial Day personally significant to Madren.
“We need to also recognize those who did not get reported and do not have their names on the wall,” he explained.
While every war waged on foreign soil has produced its set of “unknown soldiers” lost to the sands of time, of particular concern to Madren are the countless troops who suffered from frostbite and froze to death on Inchon Hill during the Korean War.
They were casualties of the brutally cold winter seen in that part of the world.
“None of them have ever been reported,” the Mount Airy veteran said of their identities or numbers.
Monday’s service will include:
• A call to order by Mayor Jon Cawley;
• The raising of the American flag by North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC;
• A singing of the national anthem led by Melissa Vernon;
• A group recital of the Pledge of Allegiance:
• An invocation by Pastor D.M. Dalton, Mount Airy Ministerial Association president;
• The reading of a city Memorial Day proclamation by Mayor Cawley;
• Guest speaker Paul Madren;
• The placing of the wreath by the North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC;
• A flag-folding ceremony by the North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC;
• A rifle volley salute by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Honor Guard of Mount Airy Post 2019 and VFW Memorial Honor Guard Post 9436 from Pilot Mountain;
• The playing of “Taps” by those two groups.
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