ALLENDALE, S.C. --- About 50 people gathered in and around a small park near where the railroad tracks cross U.S. Highway 301 on Monday to see the park dedicated in honor of Allendale County's two losses in the Iraq war, Sgt. Orenthial J. Smith and Marine Pfc. Rodricka Youmans.
The space around the base of an American flag pole already honored Desert Storm veterans, but Monday's ceremony, held during a downpour and in steamy heat, renamed it Smith-Youmans Park.
"I might fight for a street after while," Smith's mother, Iratean Smith, joked afterward. "Words cannot describe. I'm just overwhelmed. We appreciate everything the town's done."
"It means a lot that the town thought about it," Youmans' father, Johnnie Youmans, said.
Smith, of the Dexheim, Germany-based 123rd Maintenance Support Battalion, died at age 21 on June 22, 2003, when his convoy was ambushed in a small-arms attack south of Baghdad.
Youmans, of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C., died at age 22 on July 6, 2004, when his vehicle struck an anti-tank mine near Fallujah.
The two had attended Allendale-Fairfax High School together.
Family members of both young men sat under umbrellas on metal folding chairs, while other spectators watched from the edge of the street.
The podium was flanked by American Legion members and uniformed soldiers from the South Carolina Army National Guard's Allendale-based 266th Quartermaster Detachment, themselves Iraq war veterans, including town Mayor and retired Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Jackson.
State Rep. Lonnie Hosey, D-Barnwell, told the crowd that Smith and Youmans died for freedom, and because they loved their country.
"It must be remembered that they didn't die in vain," Hosey said.