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May 30, 2013

Memorial Day Salute Calls for Celebration of Liberty, Freedom

Lloyd Erickson delivers the message during the 67th Annual Memorial Day Services held Monday at the Memphis VFW.

While rain forced the 67th Annual Memorial Day Services indoors on Monday morning, it couldn't dampen the spirits of the capacity crowd on hand to pay their respects.

"Memorial Day is not a day of mourning, but a day of celebration," speaker Lloyd Erickson told the crowd. "Let this Memorial Day be the beginning of our commitment to live life with joy and enthusiasm by celebrating liberty and freedom."

With the history of the holiday dating back to the Civil War and efforts initially championed by president Abraham Lincoln, Memorial Day serves to remind us of the cost of freedom, Erickson said.

He praised the local efforts made to adorn the graves of veterans with American flags during Memorial Day, a tradition that has continued since 1948.

"Soldiers resting in these cemeteries have a common bond with today's soldiers, they have the same values - fidelity, duty, respect, honor, integrity and courage," he said.

A life-long resident of Scotland County, Erickson volunteered for service in the United States Army in 1968, just four years after graduating from Gorin High School. He served in Vietnam where he earned the Bronze Star.

The soldier highlighted the names of his fellow Vietnam veterans who perished. Those names now adorn the memorial located on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn.

Many of those same names are memorialized as well on a tattoo that Erickson wears.

"On my left arm there is a tattoo that marks my service," Erickson told the gathering. "Underneath the image are several initials, initials of my friends who did not come home from Vietnam."

Erickson remembered his good friend Gerald Gooden who passed away in Vietnam.

"In 1968 I received a Christmas card in Vietnam sent by Gerald's mother," Erickson recalled. "Despite her tragic loss, she still took time to remember me."

Memories of showing livestock at the fairgrounds with fellow soldier Tommy Moore will always remain for Erickson, despite Moore's death in Vietnam. While the tragedy prevented new memories from being made, Erickson said he clings to the happy reflections of sharing homemade ice cream with Moore and other friends and family at a birthday party at the fairgrounds.

Larry Kigar was perhaps the most difficult loss for Erickson. Plans of enlisting together were derailed by an injury suffered by Kigar in a auto accident. But Kigar followed in Erickson's footsteps three weeks later. That same time window brought him to Fort Polk, 21 days after Erickson had arrived, and then three weeks after his deployment to Vietnam, Kigar arrived and was stationed a few miles apart.

"I will never forget his constant smile and his spontaneous laugh," Erickson said of his comrade who was killed in action.

"Today is a day to celebrate those who committed their lives in service to this nation," he said. "Remember the soldiers, support their families, never forget the sacrifices they have made and rejoice in their lives."

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