Written on each cross is the name of a Cherokee County service man and the war in which they were killed - World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Many of the family names of those who died are well known in our area - Bell, Cowart, Faucett, Hillhouse, Roper, Bishop, and Lawson. None from our area who served in WW I is still living. In fact, sources say there is only one living American veteran of World War I. Frank Woodruff Buckles is 109 years old and lives in West Virginia.
There are numerous crosses for boys who lost their lives in World War II. Most of them were truly boys. Norman Sosebee, a World War II veteran himself, is very knowledgeable about military history. He said the age of the troops in his division was 18 and a half years. The division was called the "Diaper Division." Norman described himself as an "infantry foot soldier."
Among the battles in Europe and the Pacific, one of the deadliest was the Battle of Iwo Jima. The fighting was fierce. The familiar picture of five marines and a navy corpsman raising the American Flag on Mt. Suribachi still touches our hearts. The battle lasted 35 days. Before it ended, three of those who had raised the flag had been killed.
Norman said there were 11 from Cherokee at Iwo Jima, but they did not know it at the time. Jim Palmer was a Navy commander in the first wave of the attack. W.A. Pressley was there. Arnold Fowler and Artis Brookshire were together. Arnold was with Artis when Artis was killed.
Palmer, Pressley and Arnold were among those who returned home safely. So did Dick Miles, George Howard, James Cline, Pete Cagle, Mark Hitt, H. T. Padgett, Homer Adams, Newt Adams, Frank Barrett, Sam Brutz, Jack Beavers and hundreds of others.
Billy Beard was in New Guinea and the Philippines for 18 months. So was Lin Abernathy. During that time he told Billy that when he got home he was going to get a house so far back in Ellijay that a recruiting officer would never find it. Both returned from the war.
When the battleship Atlanta was sunk there were three from Cherokee on board - Lee Spears, William N. Garner and David Bottoms.
Jimmy Stitt's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor shortly after the war began. He was the ship's baker, but when they were in battle he manned one of the big guns.
Fighting in Europe was going on at the same time. It was intense. Both Carter Seay and Roy Hobgood fought there. Both returned bringing home memories of the suffering and atrocities of war.
For a few days, Ernest L. Bobo was listed MIA in Germany. While a battle was going on, he was one of the soldiers captured by the Germans. They kept them in German foxholes while the fighting continued for several days. Then Americans troops surrounded the Germans that had captured them. The American soldiers were freed and the same Germans that had captured them became their prisoners.
Like Norman Sosebee, Herman Cantrell is a local historian. He was in the South Pacific and in Japan during the occupation. Later he was in Korea.
Sometimes the Korean War is referred to as the Korean Conflict. Those who were there like Herman and Bob Blackwell knew they were in a war. There were over 58,000 U.S. servicemen who were killed. In the display of crosses in James Cannon Park there are six local casualties of the Korean War honored: Ty Edwards, Johnnie A. Grizzle, Johnnie E. Moore, Bernard O. Priest, Robert N. Thacker and Ely E. Whorley.
Another six crosses are in memory of those killed in Vietnam: Charles George Boling, Billy Gwinn Langley, Roger Hulsey, Russell Jones, Jr., William Painter and Bobby Arthur Young.
Many agree that many of the American people did not show the appreciation and respect those returning from Vietnam deserved. It is not too late. Charlie Seay, Jimmy Roper, Sonny Roper, Robert Burns, Ted Almond, Michael Pair, Frank Harris and many more Vietnam veterans live here. Memorial Day is a good day to thank them.
Our country is involved in war again. The Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom have taken American lives. Brian D. Ardron and Kristopher Cody Warren both have crosses at Cannon Park.
If you were at the Fourth of July parade in Canton several years ago, you may have seen Cody Warren. Wearing his dress uniform, he was on the back of one of Mauldin Body Shop's rollback wreckers. The truck stopped and raised an American flag. Cody led the crowd in the Pledge. Taking the microphone, Johnny Weaver asked us to remember the young Marine in our prayers. A car was waiting to take him to the airport to deploy for Iraq. Many of us were teary-eyed.
A few months later, the body of Kristopher Cody Warren was returned to Cherokee County for burial at Georgia Veterans Cemetery. He was only 19.
Laura Dearing, David Buckner, Scott McElroy, Frank (Tater) Mills and Carter Edge are only a few among those who have served or are serving now.
While Carter was in Iraq, the American Red Cross notified him that that his son, Carl Carter Edge IV, had been born. While he did not believe he would be killed, sometimes he would think about his son growing up without him.
Rudyard Kipling wrote in his poem "Recessional," "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget-lest we forget!"
May we never forget the sacrifices others have made to preserve freedom.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska and a former county school superintendent.