LULA – Nearly one hundred people lined the perimeter of Veterans Park in Lula Monday morning to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy today.
And while it may have been the 50th anniversary of the official federal holiday established by Congress two generations ago, whether you call it Memorial Day or Decoration Day, there’s a longstanding tradition of reverence and remembrance by the people of this community for those who died protecting our liberties.
The annual event organized by the Lula-Belton Historical Society was absent from the city last year thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, but this year’s ceremony was as vibrant, colorful and patriotic as ever.
Retired Command Sergeant Major Joseph Natividad, U.S. Army, now lives in Lula. He stood proudly among those in the crowd, in full dress uniform, listening to the array of patriotic songs being sung and the words of tribute being spoken.
After 28-years of active duty (retiring in 1986), followed by ten years as an ROTC instructor at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Natividad commented about the significance of Memorial Day. “Slow down, think about it, quit what you are doing and pause to thank the men and women for this day,” he said, his voice showing a measure of emotion.
Not far away Rusty and Laura Clark studied the memorial wall containing bricks inscribed with the names of Lula residents having lost their lives defending their country. “My husband’s family is from here,” Ms. Clark began.
She said while his family no longer lives in the Lula area, they had historic roots dating back to the early days of the town.
She said several years ago she and her husband traveled to France and decided to visit Normandy and the site of the D-Day invasion. “They have a museum and you can put in someone’s name and find out about them.”
“We didn’t think we would know anybody…we entered all our family’s names and like ‘Whoa!’”, she said excitedly.
“As it turns out his uncle, J.D. Little, who nobody (family members) knew where he was buried, died on the Fourth of July in Normandy.” She explained that Uncle J.D. was from Lula and buried in a simple grave in northern France, but none of his family knew that.
“Now we have moved to Gainesville, and we came to see Lula when we found out they were doing this,” Clark said pointing at the memorial wall. She said that she and her husband were unable during that initial visit to locate a brick in the memorial wall with their ancestor’s name, but that would soon be changing. “And now we’re going to get a brick for J.D. Little.”
Featured speaker, Lula native Retired Staff Sergeant Clinton Pruitt, probably did not know the Clark’s story and the recent discovery of a long-lost family member, but he couldn’t have said it any better: “We stand in the midst of patriots and family and friends of those who have nobly served...they were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves; they were ordinary people who responded in extra-ordinary ways during extreme times.”