MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – The sun filtered through the old trees surrounding the American Legion property in Murrells Inlet. The day was warm, the wind was light, and the crowd was silent as they honored those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Even with Monday's beautiful weather, you still got chills as a speaker read out the names from the Wall That Heals. While the crowd honored those lost during the Vietnam War, they also took time to mention local veterans - past and present.
"We couldn't wait to put decorations, the flowers and flags on the Veterans' graves, that was a big day for us," recalled Tom Dunkle. That's how the WWII Vet spent Memorial Day when he was a child. Today, he spent it amongst those being honored.
Dunkle, like so many present during the ceremony, got teary-eyed during the service.
"It brings back a lot of memories that you forget … because you're not around it everyday," he said.
He shared those war stories from his days in the US Army Air Corps, flying planes around the world. History lessons that our children need to remember.
"They have to sit down and remember all these people did and why we are as free as we are," said Dunkle.
The message isn't lost on children at the service.
"We were recognizing the people who fought in the wars for our freedom," said Anna Cox. Her and her young cousins were with their grandfather, a military veteran.
Their grandpa's war stories live on through their memories.
"He showed us this rock, it says 'POW.' That means Prisoner of War ... and we still need to remember him, because he fought, too," said Cox.
While many of us take today to remember our Veterans, many of them continue to deal with injuries sustained during service every day.
It was tough coming home then, because you know….no one cared about the Vietnam Vets," recalled James Cadieux. The Vietnam War Veteran took time to reflect on how much has changed since his days in the military.
"The public seems to be more involved now," he said.
Times are changing, and Cadieux has a constant companion to spend it with.
People don't understand how much these dogs can do for you, but they can do miracles," he said.
Cadieux is referring to Cruiser, his service dog given to him by Canine Angels. The non-profit adopts shelter dogs and trains them for the special needs of veterans and first responders.
Before his instant connection with Cruiser less than six months ago, Cadieux suffered from PTSD, sleep apnea, dizzy spells and physical pain.
"My health issues ... he's helped with those. Walking on the beach together, I'm down 42 pounds and now I'm just ... just enjoying life," shared Cadieux.
His health, both mentally and physically, is improving.
"For some reason, I haven't had a dizzy spell in a month."
He credits Cruiser.
"People come up, they love the dog. They're coming up to see the dog more than talking to me!" he joked.
While Cadieux now has Cruiser to walk with, he knows the steps taken on the journey to get him to this point involved his past service for our country.
"I owe it all to all of our Veterans…they deserve everything they get," he said. Adding," remember….remember those who gave their lives,those still fighting for our country, and those still in the hospital," he admitted.