By Benjamin Cohn
Weaverville – Residents and local veterans sat in the sunshine on the sloping hills surrounding Lake Louise to take in this year’s Memorial Day event. Featured guests included the Reuter Center Singers, who sang the National Anthem, Reverend Will Gaines of Brittains Cove Presbyterian Church and Howard Dusenbery, who performed a solemn piece on his bagpipes.
Vice-Mayor and Town Council member Doug Jackson hosted the event and introduced each of the afternoon’s speakers and performers. “This is a very special event that we have each year to honor those men and women that have given their lives in service to our country,” Jackson said.
“Thank you Reuter Center Singers for [performing] the National Anthem and Reverend [Will] Gaines for the invocation. The first part of our program will be a demonstration of the North Buncombe High School NJROTC, followed by the Reuter Center Singers’ special song and our speaker, Weaverville Police Chief Ron Davis.”
North Buncombe High’s NJROTC performed an elaborate rifle ceremony showcasing their training and skill. The Reuter Center Singers performed again, this time singing “Mansions of the Lord,” a hymn written initially by Randall Wallace.
Jackson then introduced Davis by going over his military history and his qualifications that merit his replacement of former Police Chief Alan Wyatt.
Said Vice-Mayor Jackson, “Chief Davis was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He spent three years on active duty and had a tour of duty in the Sinai Peninsula with the 82nd Airborne Division. [He] completed his service as a Sergeant. Later he was a civilian police advisor attached to the Army Military Police Unit in Mosul, Iraq and was also a police advisor in … Afghanistan.
Davis rose and delivered his Memorial Day address. “I’m humbled to have this chance to speak to you on this important day when we recognize those who gave all in defense of our country, Davis began. “A title that was given to me more than 30 years ago [and] that will always be with me is Sergeant Ron Davis, Second Battalion Airborne, 504th … Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army.
“Some of you might have detected a little pride when I said that. Indeed, I come from a long line of citizen soldiers, who proudly served their country however they could, continued on with civilian life. Like my father, who was in World War II and served in a place called Guadalcanal. Even late in his life, everyone knew to be cautious when we were waking my father, since he would often swing his fists and arms around his head, thinking it was an enemy and not a loved one.
“Also my grandfather, who was in World War I … and suffered from a persistent cough the rest of his life because of exposure to mustard gas. Many of you might have been like my father’s side of the family who were citizen soldiers serving their country in their own way. I’m sure there are others here who served like my wife’s family did, truly dedicated, life-long professional soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. I know the service I’ve given to my country is small compared to many of you in the audience, yet I will submit to you that our devotion pales in comparison to those who died in service of the nation they loved.
“When I was a civilian police advisor in Mosul, Iraq, I had the honor and the privilege of serving alongside our fine young men and women in an Army Military Police squad. Our mission was to train and equip the Iraqi police to ensure order and to help their country end a brutal insurgency. Every day, those wonderful young patriots would leave our base and, almost every day, they were exposed to some type of deadly action yet every day they came back to base, had something to eat and had smiles on their faces.
“Indeed, one of my most prized possessions is a photo of me standing with that squad of kids, all of them, with the biggest, most sincere smiles you can imagine. They knew what they were doing was deadly, yet they still smiled.”
Chief Davis closed his remarks rhetorically, asking, “Where does courage like that come from?”
Weaverville Police’s rifle squad then performed a salute by firing several times over Lake Louise, North Buncombe’s NJROTC retired the colors [American flag] and Reverend Gaines performed a final benediction.