By Stan Welch
Senator Billy O’Dell and Rep. Mike Gambrell attended the sixth Annual Fallen Soldiers Ceremony and luncheon last Wednesday, as the families of eight soldiers killed in action this past year were honored.
Cathy Garner, mother of Senior Airman Nick Alden, of Williamston, received the Order of the Palmetto Patriot award, the highest award given by the Lieutenant Governor. Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell was on hand to make the presentations.
Senior Airman Alden was killed last year by a Muslim terrorist who approached the bus Alden was on, awaiting transport to his flight to Afghanistan and opened fire on the vehicle, killing Alden and another soldier.
Brigadier General Bryan Roberts presented the families of the fallen soldiers, who represented several branches of the military and all corners of the state, with their awards and resolutions. Sen. Jake Knotts, who normally hosts the luncheon and ceremony, was also on hand.
U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Whitmire of Easley also gave his life for his country this year. His father received the award in his name.
Senator O’Dell, speaking to The Journal in a telephone interview, said, “It is a very solemn occasion. You feel the sadness of the parents and families, but you also feel a deep pride that South Carolina continues to produce patriots of this caliber, who are willing to go into harm’s way in the service of their country.”
Rep. Gambrell echoed those thoughts saying, “It is entirely appropriate that our state should recognize the sacrifice of these young men and women, and the terrible loss of their families.”
In the six years since the program was established, sixty one servicemen and women have been so honored.