Downtown Apex, N.C., is home to coffee shops, cigar stores, restaurants and boutiques. The area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District in 1994. Dozens of structures in the downtown area were built between 1870 and 1940.
And every three months, on the first Saturday of that month, people walking up and down North Salem Street in Apex come to a stop. Many place their hands across their hearts and silently observe what now is a tradition for American Legion Post 124.
For seven years, the post’s Legion family have conducted a bell ringing outside of Apex Fire Station No. 1 on North Salem Street. During the ceremony, members of Post 124’s Legion family ring a bell to honor a U.S. servicemember who has died on active duty during the previous three months.
The post started the ceremony in June 2010 “to honor our fallen comrades. They deserve our support, and this is just one way of us supporting them,” said Post 124 Commander Michael Sayers, the department’s Division III commander.
Sayers was Post 124’s commander when the tradition started. He said the ceremony also is a way to remind the public that the U.S. is still at war and that U.S. servicemembers are at risk daily.
“People forget … our (military),” Sayers said. “People have forgotten what it’s all about. So many people take for granted that freedom is not free. Somebody is paying for our freedom. People are dying so we can do this.”
Each ceremony opens with a prayer, and the playing of both “America, The Beautiful” and the national anthem. A U.S. flag is raised during the playing of the anthem, and the flag then is lowered to half staff.
Following the ringing of the bell, “Taps” is played; the flag is raised again while “Amazing Grace” plays. The ceremony ends following the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Department of North Carolina Alternate Executive Committeeman Patricia Harris, who helped revitalize Post 124, taking it from less than 10 members to more than 100, said the ceremony gives Post 124’s members the opportunity to “recognize those who served and … paid with their life, and for us to continue to remember that, to honor that and to draw the community to that … and the military in the minds of those who are benefitting.”
The ceremony was monthly until January of 2017 and then was moved to every three months.
At the most recent ceremony on Nov. 4, the bell was rung 17 times. Men, women and children taking in downtown Apex stopped in their tracks.
“That makes me feel very good,” Sayers said. “We try to do Americanism throughout the community, and this is just another way we can do it.”