Starkville hosts annual Memorial Day ceremony

(Top) Braden Willeford, David Burnett and Draco Andol of Boy Scout Troop 14 presented the colors at the Memorial Day Ceremony.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill fought through tears as she gave her Memorial Day address in front of the Oktibbeha County Courthouse on Monday and read “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

Spruill, a Navy veteran and former pilot, was the first female pilot to land her plane on an aircraft carrier.

She said Memorial Day typically marks many things, such as the beginning of summer or the end of the school year, but it is important to not lose sight of the true meaning.


“It is so much more than that,” she said. “It is a day of remembrance ... a day of thanks.”

The mayor was just one of several speakers at the Memorial Day ceremony hosted outside of the Oktibbeha County Courthouse on Monday by the Military Affairs Committee at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.

Other speakers included Oktibbeha County District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, Mississippi State Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt, and keynote speaker, retired Army Col. Chuck Ware.

Ware currently works as president of Oktibbeha County Training School/Henderson High School Scholarship Fund, Inc. and as vice president of Habitat for Humanity in Starkville.

Navy Captain Robert A. Green, who serves as the co-chair for the Military Affairs Committee at the GSDP, served as the master of ceremonies.

Hyatt, who spoke to the group on behalf of MSU President Mark Keenum, reflected on a recent trip to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“To see the Arizona memorial, the statues and the names of the men who lost their lives that day,” she said. “I thought a great deal about what that meant for our country on that morning.”

Montgomery pointed to the family of Taylor McDavid sitting on the front row of the event.

McDavid grew up with Montgomery, but was killed in Iraq in March 2008.

“Soldiers that paid the ultimate sacrificed, the ultimate measure and we are thankful,” Montgomery said. “They met the challenges and looked forward to the challenges at hand.”

Ware also gave personal anecdotes to highlight how war had impacted people just in his community on the west side of Starkville.

He said in his community, they have identified 50 veterans just in one small part of the city who served in conflicts going back to World War II.

That includes Roosevelt Taylor, the oldest living veteran in the area. In February, the 93-year-old Taylor was made an honorary Tuskegee Airman for his service to the nation.

Not all service members came home alive, though.

“Some of the servicemen on this (fallen soldiers memorial) were friends and high school classmates of mine and some of yours,” Ware said.

He then mentioned Charlie Hunter, who grew up in the Needmore community and was a star football player.

“He was one of the best linebackers to grace the grid iron and walk the halls of Henderson High School,” Ware said. “He was killed in Vietnam.”

To close out the ceremony, local veterans read off the names of the 92 service members from Oktibbeha County who had been killed in combat, going back to World War I.

Wreaths were then put down in front of the fallen soldier monument, before Boy Scouts from Troop 14 raised the flag as “Taps” was played.

A flyover by Carey and Sam Hardin concluded the event, which was sponsored by the GSDP, The Mississippi State Bagley College of Engineering, OSERVS and Backstage Music.