May 28 was an emotional day in Yadkin County. Hundreds gathered on the lawn of the Veteran’s Memorial at Yadkin County Park to honor the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our country.
The county and the Yadkin VFW held the Memorial Day service. Chuck Knight, veteran affairs administrator, led the services.
“We always try to say that freedom is not free; it comes at a heavy price,” Knight said. “My cost and your cost have already been paid so we can enjoy the freedom that we already have.”
East Bend Elementary third graders Kylie Johnson and Mikayla Lane led the crowd in the national anthem and a guitar and flute duet performed America the Beautiful.
Veterans posted the military branch colors at the memorial as a mandolin player performed the branch songs in the background.
The memorial service became emotional when David Shore, commander of the American Legion Post 336, took to the podium. Shore told the audience the story of the blue star banner.
This banner was created at the end of World War I. The banner is for families who have an immediate family member who is actively serving in the military.
Next, Shore showed the audience a similar banner: one with a gold star.
“We have another banner here that’s of a different color,” Shore said. “The meaning of this is more significant than anything that we can do. A gold star banner signifies that this family has lost a family member in combat.”
Shore told the audience that he had borrowed this banner from Mike and Becky Swaim, the parents of Daniel Swaim, who is Yadkin County’s only casualty in the Iraq War. The Swaims were asked to the podium to receive their gold star banner once more.
“We’ve made a lot of presentations over the years, but this is the most difficult presentation I’ve ever made in my life,” Shore said.
After a reading of names of all the local soldiers lost in battles from the Civil War all the way to the Gulf War, County Commissioner Chair Kevin Austin stepped to the podium to honor the Swaim family once more.
“I have the honor today to read the last name, and God willing this will be the last name ever on this list. That is Daniel Swaim,” Austin said. “He lost his life in the Iraq War.”
Austin was also there to dedicate the new playground at the county park in Daniel Swaim’s honor.
“When we decided to build this playground the commissioners talked amongst ourselves about who would be a fitting person to dedicate the playground for and we all agreed on Daniel Swaim,” Austin said. “Now there were a lot of names read here this morning, and every one of them is just as deserving as any. But today we honor Daniel.”
Austin presented Mike and Becky Swaim with a framed copy of the county’s resolution to dedicate the park to Daniel.
“One of Daniel’s officers in the Marine Corps said that Daniel was the epitome of what a marine should be,” Mike Swaim said. “That’s a real honor.”
Mike said that every day is a challenge for him as he deals with the loss of his child.
“It’s hard to wake up in the mornings,” Mike said. “I don’t go in my son’s room much because it’s too cold in there; it’s not warm anymore. Maybe it’s supposed to be warm in there, but I just don’t know.”
Becky said she is glad that the playground will always have Daniel’s name attached to it and that his friend’s children will come to play and always see the plaque at the park’s entrance each time the come in.
“It’s the worst thing that could ever happen in the world to lose your child,” Becky said. “Remember how precious it is to have your child with you when you step on this playground.”
Mike wants to remind everyone to remember those they love that have passed away and to always keep our military men and women in your prayers.
“Say the names of the people you love everyday,” Mike said. “We’ve got a lot of [veterans and families] out here that we need our support and this country needs to back them up. Something needs to be said to soothe the pain and the loss.”
Mike said that he plans to return to the park in the future.
“[Daniel’s] here now,” Mike said. “He has that freedom.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.