GREENSBORO — Leading up to the Carolina Field of Honor were rows of flags flown at half-staff. White “Trees of Valor” decorated with photos lined the sidewalk, and draped in red, white and blue with miniature American flags in hand were hundreds of wives, husbands, daughters and sons of fallen soldiers.
It was the scene of another Memorial Day at Triad Park, similar to the one that played out in cities and towns across America on Monday.
But for many of these people, this day was no different than any other. For them, Memorial Day isn’t just one day — it’s every day.
Beverly Weavil was sitting on the outskirts of the field alongside her daughter, Jennifer. In front of them were two photos — one of Weavil’s late mother, who passed away three years ago, and another of her late father, wearing his World War II military uniform.
Weavil’s father served in the Yellow Scorpion Squadron as a P-51 Mustang aircraft mechanic for four years. Although he didn’t die while on active duty, he passed down stories to Weavil about friends who did.
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“I come, since he can’t come,” Weavil explained. “I come for him because he would be here for his friends.”
Sitting on the opposite side of the field was another daughter of a World War II veteran, Brenda Scott. Her father fought in the Army during the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded a Purple Heart. She is married to a Vietnam War veteran and had a brother-in-law who served as well.
Scott said it’s always been important to her and her family to spend Memorial Day honoring those who served.
“We always come out to one of the military things on this day,” Scott said. “We’ve done parades. We’ve done this. We’ve done Jamestown. We’ve done several things in D.C. It’s just something we normally do on this day — to remember.”
Remembrance was the highlight of the address given by Scott Matthews. He said the memorial ceremony and Field of Honor share a mission to educate the public about the sacrifices made by those who served.
“It’s sad that (some) people don’t know, that they think ‘Oh, it’s (Memorial Day). The start of summer. The pool’s opened up. Let’s cook the hamburgers and hot dogs,’” said Matthews, a Marine Corps veteran who chairs the Carolina Field of Honor War Memorial Foundation. “Great, do that, but take time to reflect on those that you may not even know but were there to protect our culture, our way of life, our heritage.”
The welcome address was followed with the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem and the retirement of colors.
Matthews said the ceremony is not only for veterans to share their stories, but allows those who have lost loved ones to lean on each other.
“It’s a tough day for them,” Matthews said. “They have a level of comfort knowing that people recognize those sacrifices. And that’s what we’re there for — to honor their sacrifices.”
For George Weaver, memorial services like these are especially significant. Weaver said that when he came back home from fighting in the Vietnam War, veterans didn’t have a pleasant return. Instead of parades or flags, Weaver said he and others were met with anti-war demonstrations.
“It gets to be quite emotional,” Weaver said. “Vietnam vets don’t wanna see other veterans treated the way we were when we came back. As you look around, people are here. They don’t want to see what happened post-Vietnam to our veterans now.”
The ceremony has been occurring since the Carolina Field of Honor was dedicated in 2014, one of two main events at the site. The other being, of course, a Veterans Day celebration.
But Matthews said the Carolina Field of Honor is bigger than just two days out of the year. It is where grandchildren hear the traded war stories of their grandparents, where sacrifices are permanently memorialized, where there is a place to honor those who fought for America’s freedom.
“If it were not for the people that fought for us in all of these wars, we would not even be able to be out here to celebrate this day,” Weavil said. “This is part of our freedoms. Many of them gave their lives or were severely injured, and we need to honor what they did for us.”
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