The names of the 131 known Warren County soldiers who died defending America were read Monday morning during the community’s annual Memorial Day ceremony at the airport.
These soldiers “gave their tomorrows for our todays.”
McMinnville resident James Cantrell, lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army retired, was the keynote speaker and he was quick to praise a local hero who gave his life for others.
“I’d like to thank the people for giving us David Ray,” said Cantrell of the soldier who has a school, Bobby Ray Memorial Elementary, named in his honor. “He did the ultimate thing of jumping on a grenade and saving lots of soldiers.”
Cantrell talked about the character of those who serve, saying, “I ran a rifle company in Vietnam and we were in combat every day. I never had a discipline problem.”
He said it was often astonishing how young the soldiers looked. Cantrell, at 26, says he was the old man of the group.
“Most of the time these soldiers were really young kids,” said Cantrell. “There was a young pilot, he looked 17, driving a $7 million helicopter.”
Cantrell said as a soldier it was his responsibility to do the best job he possibly could. Americans can still strive for that ideal, he said, even if they aren’t in military service.
“I’d like to encourage people to do the best job they can as mothers, fathers and parents to make America the best it can be,” said Cantrell.
The ceremony included the national anthem and “God Bless America” sung by Mary Katherine Williams. There was posting of colors by the Joint Honor Guard, a 21-gun salute for the fallen war heroes, and the playing of “Taps.”
McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley and Warren County Executive Herschel Wells read the names of the war dead.