About 200 residents and officials came out for the event in the Park at City Center to show their respect for all veterans, but also to give special thanks to Strickland, 23, a former Etowah High student, who was killed by an Afghan soldier Sept. 21.
“It was wonderful,” his mother said as she was greeted by well-wishers after the ceremony. “It was wonderful.”
In addition to the speakers offering their thanks and appreciation to Strickland’s mother, who traveled from her home in Texas for the ceremony, the city also unveiled the fallen soldier’s name on the veterans’ memorial in the park.
South Cherokee American Legion Post 316 Commander Irma Martin, who worked closely in planning the ceremony, told the attendees Monday night the holiday was an important one.
“Today, Nov. 11, Veterans Day,” Martin said, “is a day to honor all veterans and the brave men and women who are serving our great country.”
Martin said it is also important to honor those like Strickland who paid the “ultimate price” for America’s freedoms.
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques remarked on what he said was the long-standing tradition of patriotism in the city.
“Our residents have always shown their patriotism, so much so that visiting dignitaries have taken notice,” he said to the crowd.
Like all others who spoke, Henriques made special mention of Strickland.
“Today, we remember and honor another kind of veteran, one who was killed in action,” the mayor said.
In Strickland, Henriques said “Woodstock has lost another son.”
Henriques noted when the former Etowah High student died, he held the rank of a specialist, but the monument bearing his name lists him as a sergeant, because he was posthumously moved up in the ranks four days after his death.
But the mayor said that title wasn’t just honorary and a U.S. Army Special Forces spokeswoman had explained to him that Strickland earned the rank by his training and experience.
“Unfortunately, he was gone before the honor could be bestowed upon him,” Henriques said.
During his remarks before the start of the candlelight vigil portion of the event, state Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) told the soldier’s mother the city was immensely grateful for her son’s service.
“I can’t tell you how thankful our city is for the sacrifice of your son,” Caldwell said to Funk.
David Leathers, a former Marine and veterans’ volunteer, served as the event’s guest speaker and remarked on the importance of observing Veterans Day.
Leathers said those in attendance Monday night were making an important statement to families who have lost loved ones serving in the military, because “No number of medals or ribbons” can comfort those who were left.
“We’ve awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery,” Leathers said. “But nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member.”
But events like the city of Woodstock’s on Monday night can send a special message, Leathers said.
“Your presence here today, and that of people gathering all across America, is a tribute to all of our troops and their families,” Leathers said. “It’s a way to say ‘We remember.’”