One of York County's most important, yet saddest, annual events was held Sunday.
A crowd of hundreds, and a judge and mother, showed yet again that York County never forgets its military members who die protecting freedom.
Sunday afternoon was the 32nd annual Memorial Day weekend ceremony at Lakeview Memory Gardens outside York. Speakers Sunday read all 215 names of York County men who died in wars since World War I. Most of the names are on a monument in the cemetery.
The last name read wasn't on the list, though. Spc. Javion Sullivan, 24, from Fort Mill, died in January in Iraq. His death is so recent his name has not yet been added to the monument.
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But the master of ceremonies, York County Family Court Judge David Guyton, an Army colonel and veteran of two wars, knew that his name must be read aloud.
In the front row sat Cynthia Sullivan, mother of Javion Sullivan. She sat in one of two chairs reserved for "Gold Star Mothers." That is the term for the mother of a man or woman from America killed in war. Willis Sullivan, Javion's father, sat behind her.
Cynthia Sullivan sat next to Minnie Stegall, who for 32 years has sat in the front row at the ceremony for her son, Lindell.
Lindell Stegall was killed in Vietnam.
The mothers sat so close to each other their arms touched. They had a bond, profound from death.
Judge Guyton, wearing full dress uniform, crisp and clean, walked over to Cynthia Sullivan, the Gold Star Mother. He kneeled in the grass even though it would stain his uniform pants.
"Ma'am I am so sorry for your loss," Guyton whispered. "Spell your son's name for me."
Judge Guyton wrote down the spelling and strode back to the podium.
"The final name I say today is not on our list yet," Judge Guyton said over the public address system to the crowd of several hundred people who were as one and silent as any church. "But we honor him right now. Army Spc. Javion S. Sullivan."
That crowd of people, who had honored all the service members who died in wars, honored Javion Sullivan — the most recent solider to die in a war so far from home.
The ceremony is held annually the Sunday before Memorial Day, America's day to honor its war dead. But Memorial Day is not a holiday, Guyton and other speakers told the crowd. U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman spoke. Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant spoke. S.C. Rep. Tommy Pope spoke.
None mentioned politics.
Memorial Day is, said Ralph Norman, the congressman, "not a day of celebration. but a day to honor sacrifice."
As Norman said that, York County Sheriff's Office deputy Willie Adams sat silently. His brother, Jesse, was killed in combat in Vietnam.
Willie Adams then volunteered for the Marines and went to Vietnam, too.
Their mother, Mildred Adams, a Gold Star Mother, had attended the ceremony every year for 31 years until she died in December.
The last words Judge Guyton told the crowd were these: "These are people we honor here today who died so that we can show if our lives are worthy of their sacrifice."
After it was over, scores of people lined up to thank Minnie Stegall and Cynthia Sullivan. People hugged them, shook their hands, thanked them. Cynthia Sullivan took time for all of them. She hugged them all. She thanked them all.
"I am so humbled, and proud, that all these people know my son's love for his country," Cynthia Sullivan said.
Cynthia and Willis Sullivan, and Minnie Stegall, did not leave the ceremony Sunday before Memorial Day with their sons because their sons were killed in wars. But they left with something else, Cynthia Sullivan said:
Strength and love.
"It gives me strength that so many people here and in this community celebrate what my son died for - his country," she said.