By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, May 25 — It wasn’t supposed to happen. And as of Friday morning, it still wasn’t.
For 23 years, the Town of Shenandoah had held a special ceremony to honor our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. But this year, the annual event that includes activities spread out over several days was cancelled on April 28.
The Shenandoah Heritage Center Committee felt they could not put together a cruise-in, car show, parade, craft show, a new entry — the battle of the bands — and a memorial service on short notice; and at the time of their decision, no one knew when business closures and the Stay At Home order would be lifted by the governor.
In addition, even if they could have pulled it off, what kind of crowd could (or would) show up? And would that make it worth the effort and the cost?
Well, despite the loss of the parade and other events due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the main event was revived and well attended on Monday.
“Clinton Lucas had a God moment on Friday,” a local pastor said at Monday’s memorial service.
The pastor and Mayor Lucas both spoke of how they found a way to make a drive-up Memorial Day service work over the last three days with the help of the Kite family and the Assembly of God. The Shenandoah church offered its outdoor complex a little farther down Comertown Road, and the Kite family offered their musical talents for the crowd of nearly 100 that watched from their vehicles and lawn chairs.
“With God’s grace we’ve been able to do this,” Mayor Lucas told the crowd. “Freedom comes with a price and these men [and women] that we honor today paid the ultimate price for that freedom that we all enjoy.”
The mayor and several speakers addressed the crowd as they waived flags during inspirational songs.
“We are here to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and we’re thankful for them,” said Pastor Jimmy Kite.
The pastor told a story of reading letters his brother Bill sent home from Vietnam.
“The whole family would cry when we read those letters,” he recalled.
Each year during its Memorial Day service, the Town of Shenandoah recognizes a recent fallen soldier from Virginia. This year, Mayor Lucas recognized the following soldiers:
• Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin, from Newport News, VA, who passed away January 11, 2020 supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. McLaughlin was one of two soldiers killed in action when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
• Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Richard Saldana, from Manassas, VA. Saldana was declared deceased July 30, 2019 while serving during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He was listed as duty status “Whereabouts Unknown” following a July 17, 2019 non-combat, man overboard incident in the Arabian Sea and was pronounced deceased on July 30, 2019.
“Much like the men we honor here today,” Pastor Kite said near the conclusion of Monday’s memorial service, “let’s leave here today determined to make a difference in the life of other people.”