'This isn't simply a day off': Memorial Day recognized in Raleigh and Durham

30 May 2022

— Military families, veterans and elected officials gathered Monday at the State Capitol to pay respect to our nation’s service members in honor of Memorial Day.

Veterans spoke on the meaning of Memorial Day, one stating, “Every hot dog, every burger, every spin around the lake or drink with friends and family is a debt purchased by others. This is not about all who served — that day comes in the fall. This one is to honor those who paid in life and blood, whose moms never saw them again, whose dads wept in private, whose wives raised kids alone, whose kids only remember them from pictures. This isn’t simply a day off. This is a day to remember those others who paid for every free breath you will ever get to take.”

Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted before the event, writing, “Freedom isn’t free … because brave Americans have been willing to step up and defend our country, I am able to say what I want, do what I want, go where I want and run for elected office. I owe these freedoms to them.”

In Durham, the county hosted a remembrance ceremony on Monday morning for fallen service members.

“All gave some, but some gave all,” said Durham County Veterans Services Officer Linzie Atkins III. “We are here to remember. We’re not here to celebrate war. It’s a tragic means to an unpredictable end.”

Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Health Care Executive Director Paul Crews echoed Atkins’ sentiments.

“It’s always difficult,” Crews said. “The words will never approach the enormous heights of their sacrifices.”

On Monday, Crews honored Army Private First Class Diego Rincon, who was killed on March 29, 2003, by a suicide car bomber in Iraq. Rincon was 19.

“He was full of life, wanting to help,” Crews said of Rincon. “He loved people.”

Rincon immigrated to the U.S. in 1989 when he was 5 years old. He joined the Army right after high school.

Before Rincon’s first deployment, he got his green card. Even though Rincon was not a U.S. citizen, he died fighting for the country.

“His parents told the crowd, ‘We know it’s just a piece of paper, but it means a lot to us,'” Crews said. “He will always be our hero.”

NC Memorial Day events

Other ceremonies were held throughout the day at various locations, including:

Memorial Day Remembrance (Veterans Freedom Park, 1517 N. Harrison Avenue, Cary) – The 2:30 p.m. ceremony will be emceed by council member Jack Smith with remarks from Cary Town Council members, special guest speakers from local veteran organizations and patriotic music from the Cary Town Band.

2022 First Fruits Farm Memorial Balloon Festival (2805 E. River Road, Louisburg) – The final day of this festival, Monday is a short day as the balloons take off and a closing ceremony marks the Memorial Day holiday. The event site opens to the public 10 a.m., and a Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m.

Durham Bulls Military Appreciation Night (DBAP, 409 Blackwell St., Durham) – The Durham Bulls continue their 12-game homestand by beginning a six-game series with the Nashville Sounds on Monday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 5:05 p.m. The Bulls will salute service members during the game.

Durham Memorial Day Ceremony (Durham County Tax Administration, 201 E. Main St., Durham) – Veteran Services staff will hold a ceremony to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice at 9 a.m.

American Legion: Chapel Hill Post No. 6 event (3700 N.C. Highway 54, Chapel Hill) – The American Legion Post 6 is holding a service and open house at 11 a.m.

Fields of flags

JoCo Flags for Heroes (2138 N.C. Highway 42 W, Clayton) – This breathtaking display of 1,500 American Flags from the Clayton Rotary Club is beside the Johnston Health Hospital. The flags will remain up until Father’s Day, June 19, when another 150 flags will also be raised beside the Smithfield hospital.

Visit the Wake County Field of Honor (West Raleigh Baseball Complex, 830 Barringer Drive, Raleigh) – Open until 11 a.m. on Monday, more than 500 flags are on display representing fallen service members, veterans and first responder.

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