Andersonville welcomes thousands for Memorial Day weekend

Andersonville welcomes thousands for Memorial Day weekend
Hundreds of big flags lined the cemetery (Source: WALB)
Hundreds of big flags lined the cemetery (Source: WALB)
Williams family at Andersonville (Source: WALB)
Williams family at Andersonville (Source: WALB)
Ken Williams (Source: WALB)
Ken Williams (Source: WALB)
Maggie Haas (L) and Edith Jones (R) (Source: WALB)
Maggie Haas (L) and Edith Jones (R) (Source: WALB)

ANDERSONVILLE, GA (WALB) - Thousands of people spent their Memorial Day recognizing the price of freedom at the Andersonville National Cemetery.

"There's a presence that you feel. I don't know how to explain it but that's the way it is," said Ken Williams.

The 21,000 graves of service men and women and their spouses buried on the Andersonville grounds are marked by small American flags.

The Williams family was one of many walking the hallowed grounds of the Andersonville National Cemetery on Monday.

The grounds where 13,000 Civil War prisoners and thousands of other veterans are buried were decorated this weekend with small American flags.

"When you're talking about the flag, you're talking about something that's near and dear to my heart," said Ken Williams.

Williams' father served in World War II. He was one of the few soldiers who made it out alive after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He brings his family every year.

"To me, the flag and all of these behind us and around us, it's important because we need to remember where we came from," said Williams.

The small headstones and remains beneath them span every war fought since the Civil War, a solemn reminder of Americans who gave their lives for our country.

"I don't think we should ever take liberty and freedom for granted. I don't think we should ever take our rights that we have as Americans for granted and I think we've done that for too long," said veteran Don Cole.

Cole came today with a World War II veteran.

Julian Heath Parker, 92, is a man of few words, but years ago he stormed the beaches of Normandy.

Cole just gives a small thanks to the millions of veterans who have served.

"It's just a reminder of the freedom that we have," said Cole.

For other families, the walk through the grounds stirs up different emotions.

"Part of pride, part of sadness, mainly gratitude," said Maggie Haas.

"Oh I start crying when I see the flag go by and hear the Star-Spangled Banner," said Edith Jones.

Whatever the reaction is, the people walking these grounds all share a similar gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many.

The Andersonville National Historic Site welcomed nearly 3,000 guests over the Memorial Day weekend.

Volunteers placed all the flags Friday and Saturday. A Sunday ceremony included music and a wreath-laying service, and the Knights of Columbus held a special mass Monday morning.

The purpose of all the activities was to remember those who died serving their country.

"It behooves us a nation to remember that and value that freedom and value that sacrifice and take a moment to thank the service men and women that have made that ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day," said Jody Mays with the Andersonville National Historic Site.

The flags will be removed on Tuesday.

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