Fallen, but not forgotten heroes in Barnwell

For many, Memorial Day is a day of fishing poles, boats, picnics or meals on outdoor grills.

However, for others, the day was one of flowers, wreaths, service personnel in uniform, dog tags and remembrances.

In Barnwell, Salkehatchie Chapter 828, the local unit of the Vietnam Veterans of America, held its Memorial Day services at Veterans Memorial Park May 25.

Two themes were repeated during the ceremony: "Freedom isn't free," and "All gave some; some gave all."

The ceremony was attended by about 60 people.

"We come together today to pay tribute to every American serviceman who gave their life in the service of their country," said Allen Hawkes, the VVA member who planned the event. "Remember our motto: ‘All gave some; some gave all.'"
Keynote speaker was Command Sgt. Maj. Herman Jackson, who is a JROTC instructor at Barnwell High School.

Jackson reiterated the theme that "Freedom isn't free" and remarked that Memorial Day is not celebrated in the original spirit that it was intended.

"Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of sacrifice. Memorial Day used to be a day off. Businesses closed and towns had parades through the streets. The parades often ended at the cemeteries. People took time off that day to clean the graves and decorate them with flowers and flags," Jackson said.

Members of Barnwell County's contingent of the Marine Corps League, the Leathernecks detachment 1227, also participated in the ceremony.

In thanking the reserve or active duty Marines for being a part of the service, the Leathernecks treated them to lunch afterwards.

This year's Memorial ceremony by the VVA held a different feature. Seven white crosses flanked the podium, which was situated at the flagpoles at the veterans park. Overhead, the flags flew at half-staff. At the front of each cross was a portrait of a South Carolinian who was in the military. Each of the seven were servicemen who died in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2008.

None of the men honored were from Barnwell County.

Hawkes said he acquired the names from a Department of Defense database.

Eight Marines, from the Marine Reserve unit in Augusta, Ga. and the Marine detachment from Fort Gordon, Ga., helped honor these South Carolina fallen.

One after another, seven Marines solemnly approached each white cross and portrait while carrying an outstretched set of dog tags on a chain. Each Marine draped the dog tags around the cross; stepped back and gave the portrait a slow salute before marching with military precision to stand at attention behind their assigned cross.

The seven South Carolinians honored were:

• Army Capt. Richard G. Cliff Jr., 29, of Mount Pleasant. Cliff was with the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, N.C. Cliff died Sept. 29 from wounds received when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive in Yakhchal, Afghanistan.

• Army Master Sgt. Danny E. Maybin, 47, of Columbia, died Aug. 7 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait during a noncombat-related incident.

• Army Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Taylor, 25, of Charleston, was with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Taylor died Sept. 20 from wounds from small arms fire received in Baghdad, Iraq.

• Ronald Phillips, 33, of Conway, was with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Phillips died Sept. 25 in Bahbahani, Iraq from injuries after his vehicle hit an explosive.

• Army Sgt. Shawn F. Hill, 37, of Wellford was with the 178th Engineer Battalion, 218th Infantry Brigade. Hill died Jan. 28 after his vehicle hit an explosive in the Khowst province, Afghanistan.

• Army Sgt. James E. Craig, 26, of Hollywood, was with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Craig died in Mosul, Iraq Jan. 28 after his convoy encountered an explosive.

• Sgt. David L. Leimbach, 38, of Taylors was assigned to 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry, S.C. Army National Guard. Leimback died May 25 from wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by rockets and small arms fire near Bala Baluk, Afghanistan.

"In Greenville they honored these same individuals and in Columbia too. I know in Greenville they had the mother of one of them," Hawkes said.

As of May 24, at least 4,300 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,443 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is one higher than the Department of Defense tally, last updated by the Associated Press May 21.