Reflecting on Memorial Day and our cancel culture

Published 4:12 pm Saturday, May 28, 2022

By Larry Seal

As we embark on Memorial Day 2022, we are at the height of the ‘cancel culture movement’ where people simply hit the delete key on anything they do not like or anything which offends them.  No eraser needed, just touch the button and the thing (or person) goes away and is no longer there.

With the observance of Memorial Day dating back to 1868, Congress made it official in 1971 to be observed on the last Monday in May of each year.  On Memorial Day, Americans give remembrance to those military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

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From 1942-1945, my hometown of Picayune, Mississippi, lost four young men during World War II who had played football at Picayune High School.  These athletes and servicemen were George Sebron Johnston (Sailor), Raymond Luther Goodwin (Soldier), Charles Wilmon Stuart (Marine) and Robert Wilfred Barnes (Airman).   They were endeared athletes within the community, and as a result, they were memorialized for their athleticism as well as their service and sacrifice for the community and country.

In 1950, Picayune erected one of the finest football stadiums in Mississippi at a cost of over $100,000 (about $1.2 million in today’s inflated dollars).  The stadium was dedicated on Armistice Day that year with a large parade and ceremony.  According to The Picayune Item coverage of the event, Picayune School District Superintendent J.E. Bond stated in the dedication address, “This Stadium, henceforth known as “Memorial Stadium,” stands as a memorial to the four young Athletes of Picayune Memorial High School who lost their lives during World War II:  Raymond Luther Goodwin, George Sebron Johnston, Charles Wilmon Stuart, and Robert W. Barnes.  In dedicating this stadium to their memory LET US, HERE, NOW, dedicate ourselves to being “a good neighbor to the world – and to moving forward, with WAR relegated to jungle beast and PEACE flourishing and brightening.” It appears now the dedication to the memory of their sacrifice has been deleted.

Mary Ann Evans writing under the pen name George Eliot wrote, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”.  These men have obviously been forgotten.  In 2016, the Picayune School District Board of Trustees decided the stadium needed a new name and either ignored the previous dedication or just decided to overwrite what had previously been done.  They decided the stadium should be dubbed Lee/Triplett Stadium in honor of two coaches, Dodd Lee and Calvin Triplett, who had led the Maroon Tide to state championships.  It appears the board did this in violation of its own policy which states, “As a rule, the Board of Trustees will follow a policy of not naming a building for an individual unless the person is providing the funding to build the facility”.  I believe this board policy as worded today was passed at some time after the 1950 dedication.  The stadium was built mostly with funds of $70,782.00 donated by Crosby Chemicals, Inc., R.H. Crosby, Sr., President.

Previously, following Coach Triplett’s death in 2001, I discussed with two Picayune school board members the naming of the field at Memorial Stadium in honor of Coach Triplett who had returned to his hometown to lead his alma mater to a 1986 5-A State Championship.  I won’t publicly discuss the conversation content due to the shame it would bring to the Picayune School District and my hometown. Worth mentioning, Coach Triplett earned a Purple Heart Medal with an oak leaf cluster and a European Theatre of Operations Medal with four battle stars during World War II.  Coincidentally, he was also the Parade Marshal during the 1950 Armistice Day celebration in Picayune when the stadium was dedicated.  Coach Triplett was a life-long close friend of my father, and I feel confident in saying Coach Triplett personally knew each and every one of the servicemen to which Memorial Stadium had been dedicated. The legacy of Coach Triplett’s life speaks to sportsmanship and service.  I believe he would not want his name to replace the names of these young men in memoriam at Memorial Stadium. Notable also is the fact that Coach Triplett has been memorialized in the naming of the field at Fort Pierce, Florida’s Lawnwood Stadium in 2011. Very fittingly, the dedication occurred on Armistice Day! Again, a recognition of his legacy as a veteran first, then a coach.

On this Memorial Day, I implore everyone to never forget the sacrifice any of these men and women made for our country so that we can enjoy all of our freedoms which include Friday Night Lights as well as Monday Night Football, and everything in between. Without the sacrifice of our servicemen, we would not enjoy these liberties and activities. Please consider the ramifications of the failure to recognize what our servicemen and our military provide, if you see or hear of a building or facility being stripped of the memorial dedicated to our fallen men and women of the military, please step up and say “STOP”!  Remind the bureaucrats of the sacrifice these people gave so they can sit in their lofty, comfortable chairs and spend our taxpayer dollars.  You should always notify your local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the event something like this happens; not that it will make a big difference, but to raise awareness of what is needlessly happening to the legacy left by our fallen heroes and sheroes in the ‘cancel culture’ we live in today!

By Larry Seal