With its military roots running deep, Prince George honors America’s fallen

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: June 8, 2018 | 12:35 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – Memorial Day weekend was commemorated in various observances all around Prince George County. 

The entire three-day weekend was part of the celebration of the unofficial beginning of summer! Reports of inclement weather had some skeptical about getting in their holiday activities, but each day of the long holiday weekend experienced partial-sun before late-day rains. Many county residents had cookouts, picnics, or BBQ’s; hit the lakes, beaches, or swimming pools; but many also took the time to reflect and honor our nation’s fallen heroes, and our own loved ones that have passed.

Prince George County’s J.E.J. Moore Middle School held its sixth annual Memorial Day Tribute on Thursday, May 24,  in honor of those heroes that gave everything in the service of our great nation and its citizens.

The School’s Principal, Stephanie Bishop, opened the observance and welcomed attendees. The J.E.J. Moore Royals Band performed the Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, was beautifully recited by Kaylee Jenkins. The hauntingly beautiful song, Fly Away Home, by Pink Zebra, was flawlessly performed by the Full Year Choir, under the direction of Melanie Ficke.

A J.E.J. Moore student places an American flag during the special Memorial Day ceremony. (Stephanie Bishop)

Keynote Speaker for the observance was Danielle Ozbat, a Gold Star Widow. After her moving speech that brought tears to the eyes of many, there was a flag ceremony and a reading of the names of the fallen, by Isaiah Barnwell, Dylan Jordaans, and the J.E.J. Moore Middle Honor Detachment. Ozbat is the widow of U.S. Army Captain Jesse Ozbat, a Prince George County native, who was killed in Afghanistan in May 2012.

“For me and my husband, this means everything,” Ozbat said. “Time stops for us and everyone keeps going. Ceremonies like today are a nice reminder that people still care, still honor him, and it helps make the grief process a little easier, just knowing that he’s not forgotten.”

All of the names of Prince George’s fallen heroes since World War I were read, and a J.E.J. Moore student placed a flag in the Memorial Garden for each Soldier. After the reading of the Soldiers’ names and placing of the flags, the crowd rose for the always-moving playing of Taps, by Kolleen Tumlin.

“Freedom isn’t free,” said Ozbat. “Behind all of this, there is a family that is mourning.”

The annual observance remembering the fallen of Prince George from the War of 1812 through today’s conflicts, took place on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, on the lawn of the Heritage Center. This year’s observance included a dedication for the newest name engravings on the County memorial stones in front of the old Courthouse, now the home of the Prince George Regional Heritage Center. The dedications included those for the War on Terror, and one additional dedication for World War II, which was recently discovered. A wreath was placed at each stone to mark the special occasion. Brigadier General Jeffrey Drushal, Fort Lee, was the keynote speaker. 

Danielle Ozbat, a Gold Star widow, was the keynote speaker at the special Memorial Day tribute at J.E.J. Moore Middle School. (Stephanie Bishop)

The Center’s memorial exhibit to all of the fallen Soldiers from Prince George County and Hopewell was also open for viewing by attendees. This exhibit, entitled “An Honored Place,” was painstakingly compiled over several years. There was also a special showing of the Center’s recently-opened “Wall of Honor,” on the newly-redesigned website. All galleries were open for visitors and attendees.

Participants in this 10th year of this annual Prince George Memorial Day observance included family members of the fallen, members of the County Board of Supervisors, local Scout troops, SCV camps, the J.E. J. Moore Intermediate School Band, The Prince George County High School JROTC Color Guard, American Legion Post 120, and volunteers from the Heritage Center and the County of Prince George.

“This event has grown exponentially in the 10 years we have been doing it. Coupled with the work of Wade Lanning and the War Memorial Project, we have gone from faceless individuals, whose name in cold granite meant virtually nothing, to a true knowledge of the lives laid down, and their individual stories.  That makes this day especially meaningful to all of us, and especially to the surviving family members,” said Carol Marks Bowman, Executive Director, Prince George Regional Heritage Center.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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