0528 Olive Branch Memorial Day tribute

Wearing a mask, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Horn (Ret.) spoke of his Middle East war experiences as part of Monday’s Memorial Day Tribute at Blocker Cemetery in Olive Branch. The ninth annual program honors more than 200 veterans resting at the Olive Branch cemetery and the Payne Cemetery, also in Olive Branch. Concerns about coronavirus caused the program to be closed to the public.

On Memorial Day at 9 a.m., only a few people were on hand at Blocker Cemetery in Olive Branch to witness and honor more than 200 fallen hero veterans buried at the cemetery and at Payne Cemetery, another resting place in Olive Branch.

Monday brought the ninth annual Memorial Day Tribute, sponsored by the Olive Branch Knights of Columbus. The program normally brings hundreds of people to come and honor those who served and died for our country.

However, with concerns and restrictions related to COVID-19 still in place, organizers decided to hold the tribute this year without an audience. The program was closed to the public to watch in person.

Viewers could watch a live video broadcast of the program on the city’s local access cable channel OBTV. It was also aired on Comcast Channel 19 and on the City of Olive Branch’s Facebook page.

A rebroadcast of the airing was shown later Monday on the Comcast Channel 19 in Olive Branch and Bridgetown, along with OBTV Channel One on Roku.

The tribute’s special guest speaker was U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Horn, who recounted his service years in Middle East wars and of the battles he participated in. Horn is now a retired military veteran.

Attending the service was master of ceremonies David Szymanski of the Marine Corps League of Northwest Mississippi, the Knights of Columbus Color Guard, Douglas and Marie Dawson of the Memphis Phoenix Pipe Band, along with Don Showland, and Deacon Hank Babbin, who came from Louisiana to provide the invocation.

An honor guard presented the flags, names of the fallen heroes who'd given their lives for freedom were read, and a rifle salute followed, as is a tradition for the annual tribute.

Blocker Cemetery is steeped in DeSoto County tradition and was named for one of the county’s first settlers, Milton Blocker. Blocker and brother-in-law Stephen Flinn bought land from Chickasaw Indian Lush-Pun-Tubby and settled in the eastern part of the county in what would become Olive Branch. Blocker donated the land for the cemetery, which was established in 1847 and named for him.

While the Olive Branch ceremony was held Monday without viewers, at least one other annual Memorial Day program was not held because of the coronavirus concerns. Twin Oaks Funeral Home in Southaven also holds a Memorial Day program in its chapel but chose not to do it this year.

As part of Monday’s ceremony, viewers were reminded of an inscription taken from a grave marker at a Central Mississippi military cemetery that brought the meaning of the day more into focus, an inscription honoring a fallen hero: “Only two have died for you. Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.”

Managing Editor Bob Bakken contributed to this article.