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"There is one thing you must keep in mind: Freedom is not free."

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Louis Watson offered those words of reflection at the annual Orangeburg Memorial Day Service on Sunday afternoon.

Using Gen. Douglas MacArthur's words as starting point, Watson called on all service men and woman to embrace duty, honor and country to “build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith and to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”

'The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training: sacrifice," Watson continued, quoting MacArthur. "In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his maker gave when he created man in his own image."

Watson also touted the values taught in the U.S. Army, including courage and selfless service.

Watson now serves as the Battalion Recruiting Operation Officer for South Carolina State University's Army ROTC Program.

Watson said one of his ROTC students, Army 2nd Lt. Clifford V. Gadsden, is an example of the values he discussed.

Gadsden was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. He died instantly at the age of 25.

"The 29th of April 2005 is a day I would never forget," Watson said. "Second Lt. Clifford Gadsden -- gone but never forgotten.

The fallen Sgt. Thomas Grant, an Orangeburg native, also embodied the values, Watson said.

Grant, while a corporal in the U.S. Army, was a prisoner of war in the Korean War. He was later killed Dec. 8, 1967, while serving in the Vietnam War.

"He was an ideal son, brother, friend, husband and father," Watson said. "He encompassed the Army values. His character is what every soldier should be and what was embedded throughout his civilian life as well as his military life."

"He will be forever etched in my mind of his sacrifice," Watson said. "Sgt. Thomas Grant -- gone but never forgotten."

As part of the program, Grant's family was presented the S.C. Prisoner of War Medal.

About 40 such medals have been given out since the medal's inception in 2014.

The medal with a black and white ribbon was presented to Kyle Mohr, Grant's only grandson. The medal simply states, "South Carolina will never forget."

"We are so grateful for your acknowledgment of him and we are so proud of him and the sacrifice he made for this country," said Kim Grant Mohr, Grant's daughter. She traveled from Tampa, Florida to receive the award.

Orangeburg resident Michael Irvin, who was drafted into Vietnam and then served in the Persian Gulf War in U.S. Navy, came out to Sunday’s ceremony to show his respect for those serving and for those who died serving.

"The young people have to learn that freedom is not free," Irvin said.

Retired Capt. Walter Weeks served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 2000 in the National Guard.

"I want to honor those who served -- the ones in Vietnam and previous wars like the Korean War," he said.

Weeks says he is concerned that Memorial Day and other holidays have lost their meaning for many and have become just days off from work or school.

"People don't know how to celebrate," he said. "I would say if you love the Lord, you would love your fellow comrades in action."

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said, "We stop and pause to honor our veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy now." Veterans should be celebrated daily, he said. "They are the ones who made the most sacrifices for the freedoms we have today. God bless you and thank you for the service you have rendered to this country."

The North branch of the Orangeburg County Library presented a CD recording to four veterans who participated in the library's "Sounds of Service: Soldiers, Legends and Heroes," program.

The program is designed to preserve the history of servicemen from the Orangeburg area by recording their stories for prosperity.

A CD was also presented to Butler and the City of Orangeburg.

Commanders of VFW Posts 8166 and 2779 recognized the POWs and missing in action. The laying of the wreath was performed by the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Posts 2779 and 8166.

Taps was also played and prayer was offered for all those who have served and who are currently serving.

The annual Memorial Day service is supported by a number of local veterans organizations and by the City of Orangeburg and the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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