Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May each year, is a federal holiday to honor men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The city of Conway and Faulkner County each have an annual ceremony to pay tribute to the local soldiers who have died for their country.

City of Conway’s Memorial Day event

Mayor Bart Castleberry joined veterans, families of those who died at war, area leaders and others at the historic Oak Grove Cemetery to remember fallen soldiers.

“We were able to go to church Sunday and worship God; we were able to go out to eat; I was able to go to the farm and take up arms to get coyotes that are eating my sheep — why can I do that? Because of you and your family,” the mayor said of soldiers who gave their lives fighting for freedom. “We live in a great nation and it’s because of your sacrifice. Saying thank you is all we do and it seems like such a small thing.”

A local veteran played taps while the crowd saluted the flag. Before closing the ceremony, everyone said The Pledge of Allegiance.

Faulkner County's Memorial Day event

Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker read the speech Commander Dwight Eisenhower gave to the troops before they stormed the beach at Normandy nearly 75 years ago. June 6 will be the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Eisenhower’s speech was: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

“In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41.

“The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.

“The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Baker said one of the men who gave his life at Normandy was Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

“He was 56 years old and begged his commander to lead the charge at Utah Beach. His body is still in Normandy,” Baker said.