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For those who've sacrificed, it's more than long weekend


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World War II veteran Webber LaGrange speaks about the importance of Memorial Day at the Johnson County Memorial Day ceremony outside the Johnson County Courthouse in Franklin.  Mike Wolanin / Daily Journal
World War II veteran Webber LaGrange speaks about the importance of Memorial Day at the Johnson County Memorial Day ceremony outside the Johnson County Courthouse in Franklin. Mike Wolanin / Daily Journal


Ron and Patty Hazelgrove stopped at the cross bearing their son’s name.

The Edinburgh couple placed two small flags next to the memorial cross for Brian D. Hazelgrove.

Their son died Jan. 23, 2004, while flying an Army helicopter in Iraq.

Since his death, they have attended the annual Johnson County Memorial Day program, where Hazelgrove’s memorial cross stands on the courthouse lawn with 167 others, representing county residents who died while serving in the armed forces.

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Before their son died, they saw Memorial Day as just another day in a three-day weekend, they said.

“We see (Memorial Day) a little different than we did,” he said. “When you lose someone you know, you see a little more of what the day is.”

A few hundred people sat on the Johnson County Courthouse lawn and heard Webber LaGrange give that same message during the program.

Memorial Day isn’t a time for celebration; the day is a time for remembrance, the World War II veteran said.

County residents have stormed the beaches of Normandy and slogged through rice paddies in Vietnam so every American could have freedom, he said.

“Memorial Day is not a day to celebrate, the price it represents is too great, but it is a day to remember,” LaGrange said.

Some people see the day as just a day off from work. Americans must remember the sacrifice that others made and keep in mind that freedom comes at the cost of lives, he said.

“The men and women whose lives we memorialize this day are truly the heroic dead,” he said. “All of their hopes and dreams and all of their tomorrows, they gave up so we might have ours.”

Crosses placed on the courthouse lawn help county residents remember them.

Family members stop at the crosses and remember their loved ones. Some put flowers on the memorials. One woman stopped at the cross of a loved one and gazed at it for 30 minutes.

Seeing the crosses is a reminder of exactly what the day is about, said Ed Boudreau, an 84-year-old Army veteran.

“It’s very chilling really,” he said of the crosses. “You get a feeling. They served, I served, but I am still here.”

Volunteers from local American Legion chapters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Elks and women’s auxiliary groups place the crosses.

Each group also placed a flower wreath on the county’s war memorial, also on the courthouse square, and help plan the program, said Mack Arnold, commander of the Franklin America Legion.

“It’s to let people know what happened in our county,” he said.

The local 40 & 8 band played songs from each of the five branches of the military and ended the event with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Franklin American Legion Post members fired a rifle salute to fallen county residents.

The Hazelgroves then stopped by Brian’s memorial and added their flags to two that were already placed there.

Brian Hazelgrove knew the risks when he signed up to be a pilot in the Army nearly two decades ago, Patty Hazelgrove said.

His life and what he gave up makes the day more memorable, his parents said.

“We remember every day, the sacrifice,” Ron Hazelgrove said. “We are proud of him and all who serve.”

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