Memorial Day Celebrations at American Legion

The veterans and members of the community gathered at the American Legion Post 6 in Chapel Hill on Monday to commemorate local soldiers who gave their lives in service of their country.

The Memorial Day ceremonies in Chapel Hill began on Saturday, as members of the American Legion, the VFW, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts placed flags on the graves of veterans at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.

Robert Medred, opened a ceremony at the American Legion building on Monday, reminding everyone the reason behind the holiday.

“Today, we remember and honor those active duty military who died in the service of their country during all American wars and conflicts or while on active duty,” said Medred.

The event also featured music, food and showcased artifacts from military history, including papers from the Pearl Harbor attacks and military equipment.

The American Legion is an organization that works to help unite veterans and support military members leaving the service.

Wreath honoring veterans (Photo by Chris Grunert)

Wreath honoring veterans (Photo by Chris Grunert)

There are 790,000 vets in North Carolina, according to Carolina Demography, which represents about 9.8 percent of the state’s adult population.

Pearl Maynor read the poem, “In Flander’s Field “, a popular military poem in honor of her son. She said even after her son’s passing she still help support the American Legion.

“My faith in God hasn’t weakened one minute, because I know there are many, many more boys and girls out there, fighting for us, for our lives and for our safety,” said Maynor.

Memorial Day began as a dedication day after the Civil War, where graves of soldiers would be honored. The first official Memorial Day was observed in 1971.

The event concluded with a two bell ceremony, a navy tradition, to honor local soldiers who passed away.

Veterans are especially important to our state; North Carolina has the fourth largest military population in the country.

Military vehicles on display (Photo by Chris Grunert)

Military vehicles on display (Photo by Chris Grunert)

The American Legion property is for sale, which has been the focus of recent debate. An offer from Woodfield has been made for the $10 million property. Town residents have voiced concern about development on the property but the town passed on an opportunity to purchase the property.

On Memorial Day, American Legion Remembers Fallen Vets

This Monday, the American Legion Post 6 in Chapel Hill will commemorate local soldiers who gave their lives in service of their country.

Memorial Day ceremonies in Chapel Hill began on Saturday, as members of the American Legion, the VFW, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts placed flags on the graves of veterans at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery. On Monday at 8 am, the Legion will hold a short ceremony at the cemetery, followed by a memorial service at 11 am at Post 6 on Legion Road. After the service, the Legion will hold an open house, featuring live music at 12:30 by the Chapel Hill Village Band.

Lee Heavlin of the American Legion spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about the ceremonies, the Legion’s work, and the larger meaning of Memorial Day.


For more information about the American Legion, visit

Low Gas Prices Prompts Record Number of Memorial Day Travelers

Thanks to low gas prices, lots of people will be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend.

AAA estimates over 1 million North Carolinians will travel by car, the highest Memorial Day travel volume on record.

Another 80,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel by air, up 1.6 percent from last year.

Tiffany Wright is with AAA Carolinas. She contributed the uptick in travel to the lowest gas prices in years.

“We’re paying the least amount of money for gas that we’ve paid in a decade so that’s a big positive.”

The average price of gasoline in North Carolina is $2.21, which 37 cents less than last year.

Top travel destinations include Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Orlando, Florida for those hitting the road. There’s also a new road trip destination in the mix.

“What’s new to our list this year is Denver, Colorado,” Wright said. “And you can correlate that directly with the fact that folks are saving so much money with gas.”

According to a recent AAA poll, 55 percent of North Carolinians are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.

But for those flying, Alaska and the Caribbean are among the most popular vacation spots. AAA says the top domestic flights will cost 26 percent less than last year.

“Air travel’s increased and we have more folks flying to their destinations so the fact of the matter is they’re going to be paying a lot less than they have in recent years,” said Wright.

Wright suggested that anyone planning long road trips check the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s website for the most up-to-date road conditions and construction information.

She also said this weekend’s traffic will give drivers a sneak peek into the summer’s travel trends.

“We do predict that it’s going to be a busy travel season that’s going to head all the way through July fourth and through Labor Day.”

Wright urged drivers to stay safe on the roadways this weekend. One of the best ways to do this, she said, is to eliminate distractions behind the wheel.

“We like to say ‘disconnect and drive.’ Get behind the wheel and don’t be worried about your cell phone and all your social media platforms. Do what you’re meant to do when you get behind the wheel, and that’s to drive the car.”

With more than one million North Carolina drivers hitting the road this weekend, safety is a top concern.

Remembering Victims of War

“War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y’all

War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

Ohhh, war, I despise
Because it means destruction
Of innocent lives

War means tears
To thousands of mothers eyes”

With apologies to Edwin Starr’s #1 from the Vietnam war era.

For 15 years the Orange County Peace Coalition has commemorated the world wide victims of War on Memorial Day.  Now on May 30 we are at it again. This year we are mourning and hearing the Voiceless Refugees at home and abroad.

We will have songs from the Raging Grannies, Danny Glover, poems and an address from Manzoor Cheema,  He’s the founder of United Against Racism & Islamophobia, a N&O Tar Heel of  the Week and recipient of the 14th Annual International Human Rights Award and addressing the unique issues and concerns of Islamophobia and racial attitudes of oppression running rampant in our county.

Come to the Extraordinary Ventures on Elliott Rd at 2 PM, May 30.  We Kick off and end with TAPS played by Randy Burnette, East Chapel Hill High School Trumpeter.

Again I sing:

“War Huh Yeah 

What is it good for?  

Absolutely nothing.  

Listen to me

Oh war I despise

Because it means destruction

Of Human lives

And our world”


— Wes Hare

Memorial Day, “A Hero’s Best Medicine” From Fisher House

This Memorial Day from 3-6 pm, WCHL proudly airs “A Hero’s Best Medicine,” a national radio special (with a Chapel Hill tie) produced by the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides a home away from home for the families of hospitalized military veterans.

Founded by Zachary Fisher, the Fisher House Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Today, there are 65 Fisher Houses located near military and VA hospitals across the country – including one near Fort Bragg.

“A Hero’s Best Medicine” is produced by the Foundation and hosted by Doc Washburn. The first hour of the show (airing Monday at 3 pm on WCHL) will feature a segment on Chapel Hill’s annual “Marathon Jam” – a 12-hour musical jam session organized by John Santa and hosted by the American Legion, with proceeds benefiting the Fisher House. (You’ll hear WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the segment.)

Fisher House Foundation Programs and Community Relations VP Derek Donovan joined Aaron on WCHL this week.

Tune into WCHL on Monday from 3-6 pm to hear “A Hero’s Best Medicine” – and visit to hear more about the Fisher House Foundation.

Memorial Day Motorists Expected To Hit 10-Year High

If you’re hitting the road this weekend, you won’t be alone. AAA Carolina’s Tiffany Wright says 1,029,500 North Carolinians are expected to come along for the ride.

“That’s the highest number that we’ve seen in ten years, so lots more folks on the road this Memorial Day holiday,” says Wright.

Wright posits two reasons for the projected increase: an improving economy and lower gas prices.

“They’re considerably lower than they were this time last year. You’re saving about $1.07 per gallon.”

The average price for a gallon of gas in North Carolina is $2.55. Asheville has the state’s highest average gas price at $2.61. Wilmington is not far behind, with an average price of $2.59.

Wright says you can always expect to pay more at popular destinations.

“They’re always going to typically have the higher prices at the pump, and that’s just because they can. More folks are going to be willing to pay as they’re on vacation.”

Air travel is on the rise as well, with 82,800 North Carolinians expected to fly this weekend. The top destinations are Orlando, Baltimore and Seattle.

Wright reminds motorists, if you are driving, put away your cell phone and keep distractions to a minimum.

CHCCS Board Seeks Public Input on Memorial Day as Makeup Day

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education wants to get more public input before members will consider taking Memorial Day off the list of inclement weather days.

Fred Black

Fred Black

“I interviewed leaders in every surrounding district,” said U.S. Army veteran Fred Black, a well-known Chapel Hill community leader. “And they were shocked, quite frankly, when they heard that you had school on Memorial Day. And one of the even went so far as like, ‘Well, that’s Chapel Hill.’ And that upsets me.’”

Thursday night’s work session at Lincoln Center wasn’t the first occasion for members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education to hear from Black about schools being open on Memorial Day during the 2013-14 year.

Black voiced similar outrage at the June 5, 2014 meeting. On May 23, he appeared on WCHL’s “The Commentators,” where he slammed what he called the “disrespectful” and “embarrassing” decision to use Memorial Day as a makeup day for inclement-weather closings.

“To say that bad weather this winter is the cause is disingenuous,” said Black, during his radio segment. “The cause is that the school board put Memorial Day on their list of makeup days in the first place. The staff that recommended this, and the board members that accepted it without comment should be ashamed.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese recalled that the schedule was impacted 12 times by bad weather last year. Six school days were canceled. Delayed openings and early dismissals on six others accounted for 18 hours of lost instruction time.

“Due to all the inclement weather, we exhausted all of our designated days on the calendar last year,” he said.

That meant going back in the spring and modifying the calendar. Delayed opening days were canceled, and the school year was extended by as many days as the staff could identify. One of those was Memorial Day.

Black wasn’t the only person to contact the Board of Education to complain about the decision, and so the matter was reopened. It prompted a lengthy discussion about scheduling challenges, and what some board members called inflexible state parameters.

According to a state law passed in 2012, the school year must start no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. Some exemptions are granted with waivers.

Board member Mia Burroughs suggested exploring different options to fit each year, in an effort to keep Memorial Day as a guaranteed school holiday.

“I do believe that we should try to change this away from Memorial Day,” she said.

But Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford and other members said Memorial Day should remain a makeup day of last resort.

She said that less than 10 members of the public have complained about it.

Bedford also conceded that Memorial Day school openings are disrespectful to those who have served, and some who died, in the service of their country.

“But I am an Army brat,” said Bedford. “My four uncles all served. My dad served. My other two uncles served. My grandfather served and was gassed in World War I.

“So I wouldn’t intend to be disrespectful.”

She added that having classes on Memorial Day could actually present an opportunity to teach kids about sacrifices made for this country.

The matter was tabled until there’s more input from the public.

An agenda abstract for Thursday’s meeting includes a list of inclement weather options proposed by the CHCCS staff.

Local Vets Reflect On Memorial Day, Shinseki, And VA Scandal

Following a week of controversy in the wake of revelations surrounding the scandal at VA hospitals nationwide, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki submitted his resignation to President Obama on Friday. But should he have resigned? Should he have had to resign? And will his departure make a difference?

Those questions are still being discussed, even now that Shinseki has stepped down – but those were also the questions at the heart of the conversation all week long.

On Tuesday, WCHL’s Aaron Keck invited Fred Black and Lee Heavlin to the studio to discuss the issues surrounding the VA – not just Shinseki’s role, but also the scandal itself. (Or both scandals, more accurately: what made the news initially was the allegation that VA officials had deliberately covered up long wait times at VA hospitals, but the fact that veterans were waiting so long for treatment is a separate scandal in itself.) Black and Heavlin are both veterans; Heavlin currently serves as post commander at the American Legion Chapel Hill, and he also took the opportunity to reflect on Memorial Day and the commemorative ceremonies that had just taken place in Chapel Hill.

While Black and Heavlin were both concerned about the scandal, both men also observed that veterans do receive good care at VA hospitals – a fact that’s often lost in the current controversy. Black in particular argued that Shinseki’s departure would not make much difference in itself; Black has worked with Shinseki in the past, and vouches for his character as a concerned and dedicated official.

Listen to their conversations below, from the Tuesday Afternoon News with Aaron Keck.

Lee Heavlin:

Fred Black:

VFW Honors Fallen Heroes

To commemorate Memorial Day, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars placed flags next to graves at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, to honor those who died in service to our country.

This took place on Saturday and Monday. On Memorial Day morning, a service followed on the plaza.

It was led by VFW Editor, Blogmaster and Storyteller Lee Heavlin, who served for 30 years in the Navy, and retired as Master Chief Petty Officer.

Heavlin reminded everyone that this is not just a day about mattress sales or cookouts.

Here at home, it’s about honoring those who returned from wars and played a big part in building UNC and the Chapel Hill community.

“Memorial Day, to avoid any confusion, is all about remembering the dead who died in service of their country,” said Heavlin. “We’re talking about people who fell in the battlefield, or had an accident, or something caused their death while they were overseas, or somewhere in the states in the service of their country.”

He also reminded everyone that the ground they were standing on is slated to be, at some point in the near future, the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill.

VFW Chaplain Garland Neville of Carrboro led a prayer at the ceremony.

He wore his Army Airborne wings, with two stars that signify his two combat jumps in Korea.

He joined the 11th Airborne when he was 16 years old, and went to jump school in Japan before being sent to Korea. He said that joining up when he was very young may have helped him get past some of the horrors of war, unlike “some of the older guys.”

Still, he recognizes the great importance of organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, where vets can talk to others who share that bond common experiences.

“Being a member of the VFW, like in Pennsylvania, they had a bar,” Neville recalls. “And people would go in there and talk. And a lot of the veterans – each one would tried to outdo the other one on what they did in combat.

“But you get a lot of this out of your system, you know? It’s good to talk about it. And the ones who go home and sit in their rocking chair and don’t talk about it – they’re the ones that wind up with some kind of sickness later.”

Bobbi Stogner attended with her husband, longtime WTVD News Anchor Larry Stogner.

Her father, James Clyde Welch, Jr., was laid to rest about a month ago at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.

He was a Lt. Colonel in the Army, and served overseas during the Korean War. His father was also a career Army man and West Point graduate who served in World Wars I and II, as well as Korea.

Stogner said it’s important for all Americans to remember what this day is really all about, even if they’re not involved personally with the military.

“When we’re not involved with a close family member that’s in the service,” said Stogner, “or we didn’t personally serve in the Army, we take it for granted. And I think, to be here, and to see all these flags, to remember how many people really have given their lives to maintain that freedom for us – I think it’s important.”

Everett “Bud” Hampton is 90 years old. He’ll be 91 in November.

The Kannapolis native joined the Marines in July, 1942, and became part of the 4th Marine Division at Camp Lejeune a few moths later.

He saw combat in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and even got wounded by a Japanese soldier’s hand grenade in Iwo Jima.

Afterward, he returned to North Carolina, and attended UNC from 1946 until 1950. Then he was called back to serve in Korea, where he commanded a rifle company for two years.

Hampton retired as a Major from the service in 1965, and went on to work for the University of North Carolina, first as a loan officer or five years; then as the business manager for the Department of Surgery for another 18.

He and his World War II comrades gather at least once a year. And he attends this Memorial Day service in Chapel Hill every year, without fail.

“You just can’t forget some of the men and buddies that you had during all those battles,” said Hampton. “You lose so many of them.”

Memorial Day 2014 Preview

This Memorial Day, the Chapel Hill Veterans will honor the soldiers who have deceased, particularly those who have made an outstanding impact on the Chapel Hill community.

Starting at 8 am tomorrow, May 26th, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chapel Hill will host a morning service at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.

Attendees are also welcomed to participate in the Memorial Day Open House.

It is set to take place at American Legion, Post 6, located at 1714 Legion Road, and begins at 10 am.

The event will feature various displays and a memorial service. Bart’s Old North State Barbecue and Maple View Ice Cream will be available to all.

At 11 am, there will be a Memorial Day Ceremony, followed by a wreath-laying at the flag pole. A concert from the Chapel Hill Village Band will commence at 1 pm.

To close the event, there will be a National Moment of Silence at 3 pm.

In addition, the town of Carrboro will be closed tomorrow in observance of the Memorial Day Holiday. As a result, there will be no yard waste collection that day. Instead, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27th and 28th, will be scheduled for yard waste collection.

To learn more about American Legion Post 6, click here.