Martinsville, Henry County ceremonies honor fallen service members

Three ceremonies held Monday

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – As an American flag was lowered to half staff at the entrance to People's Cemetery Monday morning, Martinsville High School graduate Katie Gilbert played the national anthem on her trumpet.

"My father's a police officer, so the veterans, armed forces and police officers really hold a special place in my heart," Gilbert said.

"I've played the national anthem many times, but it doesn't get old. I love the opportunity to be able to give back to my city."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of People's Cemetery, once the only place in the city African-Americans could be buried.

For many years, the cemetery was overgrown and barely recognizable.

Today, the overgrowth has been cleared away and small American flags can be seen next to the gravestones of veterans.

"Today, it's extraordinarily beautiful," retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Earl Dawson said.

The cemetery gives him a sense of pride.

"Memorial Day, it reminds me of all of the men in the past wars that have sacrificed their lives in order for us to gather our freedom here," Dawson said.

He participated in Monday's ceremony to honor the men and women who served with him, but he said most of all he wanted to honor the veterans who came before him.

"I'm out here to honor the people in People's Cemetery...I'm just glad to be here."

On Monday afternoon, dozens of people attended the 71st annual Memorial Day ceremony at Roselawn Burial Park in Martinsville.

The Martinsville-Henry County Memorial Day Committee presented plaques to the families of two local veterans.

Retired Army Maj. Phil Corbo was the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

"Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day," Corbo said.

He concluded his speech with a quote from Col. Theodore Roosevelt: "To the American citizen soldier, who answered the call, who climbed the hill, and who never let us down."

A third ceremony was held at First Pentecostal Holiness Church in Henry County Monday evening.