Thanks for the memorial

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad weather and weekday hours probably kept the turnout below expectations, but a visit by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute last weekend was an event that showed Suffolk and its residents in an incredibly positive light. Those who did visit the city can hardly have been more impressed with the hospitality and the reception they received.

The memorial was brought to Suffolk by R.W. Baker & Co. funeral home as a gift to the community in celebration of the business’ 125th anniversary. Robert N. “Blake” Baker, vice president of the company, wanted to do something to mark the event that would do more than just bring his business glory, and during his time in the funeral industry, he had come to have a great deal of respect for the military. Hence, he decided to bring to Suffolk an exhibit that honored men and women from all branches of the military and from all American conflicts.

For Baker and just about every other civilian who attended the memorial between Thursday and Sunday, their respect only grew for the men and women who served and sacrificed in defense of our nation.

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It was impossible to stand before a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and watch a retired soldier weep as he found the names of brothers-at-arms who never made it home from Southeast Asia without gaining respect for those who have lived with that pain for so many years. It was impossible to see the anguished eyes of a mother who had lost a child in conflict without feeling humbled by the sacrifice she made.

Suffolk owes a debt of gratitude to those men and women who have served to defend the nation and advance the cause of freedom. A Saturday reading of the Hampton Roads names on the wall was one way of repaying that debt by publicly acknowledging and remembering what those brave people did for us.

The city also owes a debt of gratitude to Baker funeral home and the other businesses and individuals who contributed money and time to bring the exhibit to Suffolk and make sure that the people who came to see it were treated well. Their sacrifice was surely not as great, but its impact was still important.