Susan Camp spent her Memorial Day weekend as she and her family have for years – at an annual Sunday afternoon ceremony at Lakeview Memorial Gardens in York.
“Some of my friends go on vacation on Memorial Day,” said the 48-year-old from Clover. “This is all I know.”
Camp was 2 years old when her brother, James S. Camp, or Steve as he was known, was gunned down in Vietnam – less than two weeks after he had turned 19 and a year after he had joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
Steve was eager to join the military just as his father had, said Camp. Her father, Jim, 90, was one of several people who stood during the ceremony to be recognized as World War II veterans.
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Steve went to Vietnam at the start of December 1966 and died on Jan. 15, 1967. His name is just one of dozens inscribed on the York County Veterans Memorial that sits at the entrance to the cemetery.
The stone monument, dedicated on May 25, 1986, contains the names of more than 200 local veterans who died while serving their country – including more than 100 killed in World War II alone.
“It’s like yesterday,” said Estelle Camp, 84, mother of Steve. “When I hear ‘Taps’ it just tears me up – it’s the last thing I heard when he was buried.”
Estelle was one of three Gold Star Mothers presented with a bouquet of flowers during the ceremony – and one of only five Gold Star Mothers in York County. The organization was formed after World War I to provide support to those who had a child killed in action.
For the Camp family, the ceremony has become a rite to honor the contributions of all those who gave their lives for freedom – but also to remember a fallen loved one.
“It gets better and better,” said Jim Camp of the ceremony, which included several musical performances by the 208th Army Band from North Carolina and the Black Family Singers.
The event ended with a 21-gun salute by the American Legion Post 43 of Fort Mill. The cemetery was filled with colorful flowers adorning the graves of servicemen and women, and U.S. flags of every size.
Family Court Judge David Guyton, a colonel with the Army National Guard and a Marine veteran of Operation Desert Storm, presided as master of ceremonies, presenting speakers such as 16th Circuit Court Judge Lee Alford and York County Veterans Affairs Director Joe Medlin.
Lt. Colonel Corol B. Dobson, a battalion commander of the National Guard’s 178th Combat Engineers, recounted the story of Sgt. Tristan Wade, who was killed in Afghanistan last year by an improvised explosive device.
Wade died just a week before he was scheduled to return home. Dobson called his time in the service with people such as Wade and others from various military branches “the most fulfilling time” of his military career.