Community invited to Memorial Day service
The founder of Ellijay’s Veterans Memorial Bridge and Garden invites folks looking for a way to honor the country’s fallen veterans on Memorial Day to attend a service at the site inside Ellijay’s River Park.
“We want to have a good representation come out to honor those who’ve given their blood and lives in the service of our country,” said Sandy Lyons, who organizes Gilmer County’s sole Memorial Day tribute each year.
The bridge and garden’s annual Memorial Day service will begin at 11 am. Monday, May 29. Attendees are welcome to arrive early starting at 10 a.m., Lyons said.
This will be the ninth year Lyons, U.S. Air Force 1951-55, has put together the patriotic service, this year’s version of which will feature a special dedication of a new stone monument that honors America’s combat-wounded veterans.
Tom Richardson and Mike Pilvinsky, both members of North Georgia Chapter 826 Military Order of the Purple Heart, will be the event’s guest speakers.
“One of them will talk about the Purple Heart and one will talk about the monument,” Lyons said. “I went up there to Blue Ridge and looked at the monument and it looks great. It really emphasizes what Memorial Day is about.”
Pilvinsky said it’s not known yet if the actual red granite centerpiece of the monument, which will be transported from Blue Ridge after being engraved, will actually be set in place by Monday.
If everything doesn’t come together by Memorial Day, the dedication will still take place and a cardboard representation of the actual piece will be put up instead, he explained.
The structure’s gray granite base, engraved with insignias that represent five branches of U.S. military service, was delivered and installed last Wednesday and a concrete foundation was poured earlier this month.
Lyons said the Memorial Day event will be handicap-accessible and plenty of covered seating will be provided by the local Lions Club and American Legion post.
He expects representatives from several civic and military heritage groups, including Gilmer Boy Scouts, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Sons of the American Revolution and the North Georgia Honor Guard, to also be on hand. Other scheduled speakers include program emcee George Winn and Gilmer’s 2016 Citizen of the Year, Ralph Cox, who will lead an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I’ve already put out over 400 brochures (letting people know about what we do),” Lyons said. “I’ll also be putting out little flags that I made that will mark every one of the 72 Purple Heart (pavers) down there.”
The service is free to attend and open to anyone, young or old, Lyons said.
“I’ve had people who want to set up and sell things (at this event), but I don’t want it to be commercial. I don’t think we should do that on Memorial Day,” he said. “I try to hold (the service) down to less than an hour and it’s looking like it will be well within that.”
A free hot dog cookout at Ellijay American Legion Post 82, 297 Legion Road, will follow the Memorial Day service, Lyons added.