SIX MILE—Hundreds of Pickens County residents gathered Memorial Day to honor military service and four men in particulary who distiguish the county as having the most Medal of Honor recipients per caita in the nation.
The service, held at Six Mile Town Hall, aimed to honor the families of Pickens County Medal of Honor recipients Charles Barker, William McWhorter, Furman Smith and Donnie Howe, as well as others who died serving.
United States Senator Lindsey Graham (R) said it does not surprise him that Pickens County has more Medal of Honor recipients per capita than any other county in the United States.
“People ask me how it could be that a small town in rural South Carolina produces so many Medal of Honor winners,” Graham said. “That’s the way they are raised. They’re raised right. They believe in something bigger than themselves.”
Graham said Memorial Day is a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
“God bless the family members who have lost a loved one serving who was serving our nation,” Graham said. “(They) will always be in our thoughts and prayers. We’re remembering those who gave their lives and never made it home.”
“People in Pickens County pay the taxes and they fight the wars,” Graham continued. “If the rest of the country would follow the model here we would be better off.”
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and a wreath was placed in remembrance of fallen soldiers at the Memorial Marker at Town Hall.
Major General Robert E. Livingston, Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina and veteran of Afghanistan, said it is important to tell the untold and forgotten stories on Memorial Day.
“(Memorial Day) is the day to tell the story of the hundreds from South Carolina who have given their lives as well as the thousands across our nation,” Livingston said. “We have to remember, as a people, what makes us great.”
Livingston shared that Pvt. Smith tackled great odds against the Germans in Europe to save his fellow soldiers, while Pvt. McWhorter threw himself on an explosive to save those around him. Livingston also said Lance Cpl. Howe threw himself selflessly on a grenade to save his fellow Marines.
In speaking with service members and their families, Livingston said he began to understand why Medal of Honor recipients and other soldiers do what they do.
“I was speaking with Sgt. Baker before he died and I asked him “What makes a Medal of Honor recipient?” Livingston said. “He said, ‘Those who serve have greatness already in them, it’s just, when the circumstances project themselves, they exhibit that greatness.’”
Barker was last seen fighting hand to hand combat, according to Livingston.
“We fight for each other when we get into combat, but we go because of our families, our communities, our state and because of our great nation,” he said.
Livingston said it is important to tell the stories of those that have fallen, but it is also important to make your own stories.
“I had a chance to go back and talk to some of the families who lost loved ones in combat, and they are incredible,” Livingston said. “None of them said ‘Why did you do this to my son? Why did you do this to my husband?’ They said, ‘They were doing what they wanted to do. They were serving honorably. They made a difference, and I’m going to make a difference too.’ That’s the spirit of America.”