For each of the past six years, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Columbia County could expect a rousing, patriotic, state-of-the-country speech from U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood.
The fireworks that end the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration were almost anti-climactic after hearing remarks by Vietnam veteran Norwood, back home and in his element.
The celebration's seventh year will be quite different. Still designed to recognize the sacrifices of living veterans and service members, the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration this year won't include comments from Norwood.
But he'll be there in spirit.
In recognition of Norwood's annual support of the event, and his perpetual support of his community, Columbia County commissioners have named the lawn in front of the Justice Center in Evans as the Charlie Norwood Memorial Plaza. It's a fitting location; as the annual site of Red, White and Blue, it is the last place where Norwood addressed a general crowd of fellow Columbia Countians.
For the past two years, Norwood made his remarks while struggling through the illnesses that finally claimed his life in February. On Saturday, the plaza and adjacent Norwood Drive will be dedicated in his honor.
Saturday's event also will be the final Red, White and Blue speech from Fort Gordon's commander, Brig. Gen. Randolph Strong, who is being assigned to a new post.
And next year? It will be the first for whomever is elected as Norwood's replacement in the 10th District congressional seat, along with Strong's successor at Fort Gordon.
For this year, citizens should come at 6:30 p.m. Saturday to enjoy the event, celebrate patriotism and remember not only Norwood, but all the members of the armed services whose sacrifices have secured for us the freedom to gather for such festivities.
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