As Memorial Day approaches, the courthouse square in Decatur is full of permanent reminders of wartime service. One of the most impressive, if not the largest, is the “Flame of Freedom,” an eternal flame flickering in a large metal basin about halfway between the old and the new courthouses.
Resting on a simple stone block, the flame lights up inscriptions recalling Vietnam, Korea, World War I and World War II. Most prominent is the dedication to Vietnam that fronts the stone base. This seems only natural since the monument was built in 1969 and dedicated in 1970, at the height of that war. The dedicatory ceremony was a major event in town that year and crowds turned out to hear Gov. Lester Maddox make the main address.
But many other monuments, both large and small, surround the courthouses. Some are to wars and others to individuals or events in wartime. A walking tour is a brief glimpse into the conflicts and some individuals who fought in them. The oldest is a cannon from the 1836 Indian war in north Georgia. A huge anti-aircraft gun faces Ponce de Leon and nearby is a small bronze plaque that recalls the 1864 Battle of Decatur.
Erected in 1906, there is an impressive obelisk commemorating the Civil War. But some individual monuments are even more touching. One plaque is dedicated to 20-year-old Marion Footman Wilson, who died in World War I in 1917. Another is to SSgt Allan Brooks Callaway. This young man who graduated from Decatur High School in 1962 gave up his life on Feb. 21, 1969 while guiding American tanks through a minefield on foot. For his heroic service, he was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star.
So take a short walk around the square in Decatur this Memorial Day. See the monuments and remember the sacrifices of “all those who served our country” as one inscription reads.