Caroling in the Park celebration included a tribute to our heroes

By Lynn R. Parks

Standing in the soft light of the newly-lit Christmas tree, Carol James sometimes listened to the carols and sometimes sang along. Friends and members of her family, including her husband, Jake, stood with her, talking and laughing. Nearby, a banner bearing the smiling face of her son was hanging on a lamppost. Rick James was killed in battle in Iraq May 13, 2006, and his parents were in Seaford's Gateway Park Monday evening for the dedication of Hometown Heroes, a display of banners honoring Delaware's war dead. "I love that picture of Rick," James said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning. "You can see his face clearly and he has a lizard in his pocket. He and the other Marines caught it and were playing with it. "I guess what I love most is the innocence the picture shows, playing with that lizard." Rick James' banner is among about 30 banners that are part of the Hometown Heroes display, and one of seven that honor local men. Also remembered are Richard K. Hill, Seaford, who was killed March 26, 1966, in Vietnam; Michael Hastings, Seaford, who was killed Oct. 23, 1983, in a bomb blast in Beirut, Lebanon; Ryan Long, Seaford, who was killed by a suicide bomber April 3, 2003, in Iraq; Cory Palmer, Seaford, who died May 6, 2006, after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq; Richard Samuel Dennison, Bethel, who was killed March 5, 1971, in Vietnam; and Elmer L. Faulkner Jr., Greenwood, who was killed June 18, 1968, in Vietnam.

"These men are no longer with us tonight," said Judy Campbell, who with the members of the Delaware chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Organization organized the Hometown Heroes display. "They gave their lives so we can continue to be blessed and have the freedoms that we have here tonight." Campbell, who spoke at Monday night's dedication, said that the banner display "touches the hearts of people who see them." She thanked the citizens of Sussex County for their financial support of the display, which has been traveling the state. "The majority of the funds we have received have come from downstate," she said. "You people have big hearts." As part of the dedication ceremony, members of the Seaford High School Junior ROTC placed red, white and blue ribbons on the trees in Gateway Park. The ceremony also included the lighting of Seaford's Christmas tree and a visit by Santa Claus. James said that the mixture of the memorial banners and Christmas make the display even more poignant. "It tells us that we should take a moment and remember these men, and be thankful and grateful," she said. "And it reminds us that freedom comes with a price." The banner display will be in downtown Seaford through January. Campbell said that she does not know where it will go from here.

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