JEFFERSON — Warm rays of sunlight poked through a partly overcast sky on the afternoon of May 30, as crowds of Ashe County residents gathered at the Ashelawn Memorial Gardens for the 54th Annual Memorial Day Service.

The event was hosted by the staff of Badger Funeral Homes and Ashelawn Memorial Chapel and Gardens and featured an afternoon of prayer and reflection honoring America’s fallen service members. The event featured an honor guard made up of local veterans, a 21-gun salute and a live performance of the national anthem. The crowd stood in quiet contemplation as the roll of honor — a list of local veterans the community has lost the past two years — was read aloud.

Present for the afternoon’s service was U.S. Congresswomen Virginia Foxx, who represent’s North Carolina’s 5th district and served as as the event’s guest speaker.

“Wonderful crowd here for us today. As (Rep.) Foxx said here in her speech we’re blessed to have such a caring community for their veterans — those that we have living and those that are deceased,” said Josh Roten, owner of Badger Funeral Homes and Ashelawn Memorial Gardens. “We’re just blessed to be a host for this event. Really I couldn’t think of a better setting for Memorial Day than to be in the memorial garden to have that.”

“Josh, his family and the staff did an absolutely beautiful job of putting on this event. I am thrilled every time I’m here to be with the families of veterans and those who have past away,” said Foxx. “This is such as patriotic place, as you can tell I get very emotional and it’s because I love this country just like they love this country.”

Though some of the event’s regular participants — such as students of the high school’s Junior ROTC program — were unable to attend this years service due to state protocols regarding COVID-19, Roten explained that he was pleased to see the amount of people who came out to pay homage to the fallen.

“I thought the turnout was exceptional,” Roten said. “If you really get to looking at it this is Ashe County’s first, large in person gathering.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the 2020 Memorial Day event was unable to be held.

This year’s event also featured members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the 1450th Transportation Unit of the National Guard and dozens of local veterans. The grave of each veteran interred at the Ashe Lawn Memorial Garden was decorated with an American Flag.

Also in attendance for the ceremony was North Carolina State Rep. Ray Pickett.

“This was a beautiful service and it was so nice that we were able to get back out and get together,” Pickett said. “My wife, her father served in the military and it’s near and dear to our hearts. So I want everyone to remember and take a moment to pause for Memorial Day for the people that have fallen.”

For more information about this event visit Badger Funeral Home at www.badgerfuneralhome.com/ or call (336) 246-7114.

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