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Meridian celebrates Memorial Day

By Staff
STANDING AT ATTENTION Earl Callahan, left, Chuck McElroy and Andrew White Jr. salute the American flag Monday during singing of the National Anthem during the Memorial Day celebration at the Lauderdale County Courthouse in downtown Meridian. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
May 27, 2003
For Irene Nichols, the Memorial Day celebration in Meridian on Monday was special because she performed with the Wesley Belles and has two nephews serving overseas.
Nichols was among about 200 people who gathered in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse for the annual memorial service to honor those who fought and lost their lives in war.
Veterans groups in Meridian, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, sponsored the service.
Besides songs by the Wesley Belles, Ginger Grissom Stevens performed the national anthem. Veterans Leroy Morse and Henry Thompson read names of Lauderdale County residents who died in battle.
U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Needler, commanding officer of Training Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Station Meridian, was the featured speaker. Needler, commander since June 2001, is retiring next month.
During his career, Needler flew more than 40 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm and has received many honors. In his speech, Needler recalled the origins of Memorial Day.
Needler said Memorial Day was made an official holiday in 1971. He said soldiers who are currently fighting or who lost their lives in Iraq should be remembered as well.
Lois Clarke and her husband, Hewitt, a Meridian native and author, said they came to town to research a book on war heroes. The Clarkes currently live in Houston, Texas; they both were impressed with the Memorial Day ceremony.
Vietnam veteran Tom Collins, who spent 71⁄2 years as a prisoner of war, said Memorial Day is important because people shouldn't forget those who died or sacrificed for their county.