EARLY — “To fallen soldiers let us sing where no rockets fly nor bullets wing. Our broken brothers let us bring to the Mansions of the Lord.”
    Speaking to 180 people who gathered on a peaceful Memorial Day morning at Eastlawn Memorial Park, Early Mayor Bob Mangrum recited the lyrics of the hymn “Mansions of the Lord.”
    Mangrum, an Army veteran who teaches government and history at Howard Payne University, gave the Memorial Day address at the annual observance. “Mansions of the Lord” was written by Randall Wallace for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers” and served as the recessional for President Ronald Reagan’s funeral in 2004.
     The Eastlawn observance was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 3278. The post’s commander, James Masters, said a nation that fails to honor “those who have thieves their last measure” will not survive.
    Gold Star families were recognized at the observance, and Masters presented a flag to the oldest veteran present. That veteran was 92-year-old Earl Patrick of San Saba County, who served in the Navy during World War II.
    Mangrum began by talking about the history and meaning of Memorial Day.
    “Surprisingly, many citizens of this great country do not realize why we celebrate this national holiday,” Mangrum said. “According to a Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans polled know the true meaning of Memorial Day.
    “Many continue to confuse Memorial Day with another federal day of remembrance — Veterans Day, which is an opportunity to publicly commemorate the contributions of all veterans. Memorial Day is a sacred duty of remembrance for all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in service of our country. By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice.”
    Serving in the armed forces has always been a noble calling, Mangrum said.
    Mangrum cited the wars of the nation beginning with the Revolutionary War through the War on Terror.
    The concept of honoring the war dead began after the Civil War, when townspeople began to decorate the soldiers’ graves. The first formal Memorial Day service was in Waterloo, N.Y. on May 5, 1866, Mangrum said. Congress passed a resolution in 1881 allowing a memorial decoration day to be celebrated each year as a federal holiday.
    In 1971, Congress passed the “Monday holiday law” to observe Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, Mangrum said.     
    “It has been said, for a nation to be successful, a nation must be willing to serve,” Mangrum said. “Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serve. … They symbolize the nobility of selfless service and sacrifice, and even loss of their very lives by those who answered the call of duty.
    “Our most potent weapon in this war, without a doubt, is the great men and women in uniform who come from all across America, in small towns and cities and various backgrounds. They volunteered, they answered their nation’s call to duty. Many of them will go to war and some of them will not return. We must not forget their sacrifice.”
    Speaking powerfully with his baritone voice, Mangrum recited the “Mansions of the Lord” lyrics.
     “To fallen soldiers let us sing where no rockets fly nor bullets wing. Our broken brothers let us bring to the Mansions of the Lord. No more bleeding, no more fight, no prayers pleading through the night. Just divine embrace, eternal light to the Mansions of the Lord. Where no mothers cry and no children weep, we will stand guard though the angels sleep. Through the ages safety keep the Mansions of the Lord.”