“That They May Never Be Forgotten” was the message of the 27th Annual Memorial Day Celebration at Pecan Grove Cemetery. The event attended by 2,000 people of all ages honored the men and women who have given their lives in sacrifice to our country.
“We are here to remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice on the field of battle down through the centuries,” said Collin County Judge and retired Army Lt. Col. Keith Self. “We’ve been almost a decade in our most recent conflict, and we lose young Americans every month in Iraq and Afghanistan. This past week, we lost a young man from Garland.”
“As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, ‘we are here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.’
“As we listen to these rifle volleys that also signify our losses and then the haunting notes of ‘Taps’, consider your contribution to freedom as you consider theirs,” said Judge Self.
In a moving tribute, a bagpiper from the McKinney Fire Department played “Amazing Grace” as a riderless horse was led in, signifying the fallen hero who will never again ride into battle.
McKinney Fire Chief Mark Wallace spoke of the history of Pecan Grove, which includes the fallen from the Spanish American War, the Civil War, both world wars, Korea, Vietnam and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He read the names of the fallen, and a bell was rung in honor of each one. Roll call was followed by ‘Taps.’
The master of ceremonies was Harry McKillop, President of the Pecan Grove Cemetery Board of Trustees. He reminded the crowd that Pecan Grove Cemetery was opened in the 1800s and its maintenance is overseen by a volunteer board of trustees who hold this annual celebration “to celebrate the men who gave the supreme sacrifice.”
Jerry Lewis, with Boy Scout Troop 303 reminded those in attendance that it is the community who helps create the types of citizens who are called to serve their country in the armed forces.
He told the story of Brian Smith, who was a Boy Scout in McKinney Troop 303. As a Cub Scout, Brian had started a tradition of the boys in Troop 303 placing flags on the graves of every veteran in the cemetery for Memorial Day. Brian later joined the military and was killed in Iraq. He was buried in Pecan Grove and today, the boys from his old Boy Scout Troop honored him by placing a flag on his grave in the tradition he started years ago.
The music for the event was performed by the McKinney All-Middle School Band, who entertained the crowd with patriotic favorites including “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “America the Beautiful.”
After the ceremony, McKinney Boy Scout Troop 303 served barbeque and scout-made cobbler, beans and coleslaw to hundreds in attendance.
Following are the groups and individuals who helped make this year’s ceremony possible:
Bobby Hill, Grounds Superintendent – Pecan Grove Cemetery; Boy Scouts of America Troop 303 – Chartered 1927, Scout Master – Cameron Chandler, Sr., Assistant Scout Master – James West; McKinney City Council; McKinney Community Development Corporation (MCDC); Knight Templars – McKinney Commandry #34; Knights Templars – Templar District #9; Knights of Columbus – Council #9903 – St. Michael Catholic Church; Knights of Columbus – Third Texas District; McKinney Police Department; McKinney Mounted Patrol; 9th Texas Infantry Reenactment Group; Sons of Confederate Veterans, William H. L. Wells, Camp No. 1588, Plano; Sons of Union Veterans of Civil War, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, Camp No. 18, McKinney; 1st United States Infantry Reenactment Group; Father Bruce Bradley – St. Michael Catholic Church; Congressman Ralph Hall; Congressman Sam Johnson; Star Spangled Banner – James Shelby; Taps – Dale Littrell; City of McKinney, Mayor Brian Loughmiller; McKinney Courier Gazette; McKinney Fire Department, Chief Mark Wallace; McKinney Police Department, Chief Doug Kowalski; McKinney Parks Department; McKinney Street Superintendent, Paul Sparkman; Ched Bart – Aviation Manager And Chief Pilot, The Perot Group; Heritage Guild of Collin County, Chestnut Square, Cindy Johnson – Executive Director, Tim Baker – Board President; Historical Preservation Officer, Guy Giersch – City of McKinney; Time Warner Cable, Texas Veteran’s Network; Collin County Commissioners Court, Judge Keith Self; Bag Pipers, McKinney Fire Department ; “McKinney ISD All-City Middle School Band”, Band Directors In Charge:; Coordinator – Roy Renzenbrink, Director of Fine Arts-McKinney ISD; Paul Stephens – Head Director – Scott Johnson Middle School, Carlos Chips – Assistant; Brian Beck – Head Director – Faubion Middle School, Brittney Williams – Assistant; Lisa Smith – Head Director – Evans Middle School, James Rees- Assistant; Clark Eacker – Head Director – Dowell Middle School, Tiffany Lisko – Assistant; Gary Williams – Head Director – Cockrill Middle School, Matt Harp – Assistant; Primo Microphone, Inc.; Cornerstone Worship Center; Encore Wire; Serenity High School; Collin County Sheriff Department.
Pecan Grove Cemetery Board of Trustees: Jerry Cantrell, Dennis Hogan, Cameron Chandler, Sr., Catherine Hughes, Bill Dowdy, Harry McKillop, Jim Goodrum, Charles Rodgers, Barbara Hartline and James West.
— Cindy Evans, Town Square Buzz
Editor’s Note: Besides the image gallery below, you can view Stuart Pearlman’s image gallery by clicking here.