Salute to the fallen
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor and Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
May 29, 2013, 13:19
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Hopewell Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Phil Arendsen, left, salutes after helping to place a flag at the monument at City Point National Cemetery on Monday, Memorial Day.
Fallen soldiers were remembered at solemn ceremonies across the Tri-City area on Memorial Day.
In Hopewell, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 637 and American Legion Post 146 held a ceremony at City Point National Cemetery, the site where nearly 7,000 veterans are buried.
VFW Commander Phil Arendsen said they organized the event to say thank you to those who have died while serving their country and veterans who are no longer with us.
“Let’s take some special time today to remember those who are buried behind us, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the ones who we can’t thank, the ones we can’t give a handshake to when we see them in passing,” he said.
American Legion Commander Bob Kruckel said Memorial Day always has a special meaning in his family.
“It’s not just for beer and barbecue or a long weekend. It’s a day to remember those who have paved the way in what seems like countless wars for us to be free and to be able to enjoy the time off, the beer and barbecue, and all the things that life presents us with. It was American soldiers that freed my birth country from Hitler and the Nazis. I will forever be in debt,” he said.
Virginia VFW Commander Charles Absher said we must never forget the sacrifice that was given by fallen veterans.
“Each and every one of us owe a great debt to the courageous men and women who have given their lives. ... While giving back to the extent that they deserve is impossible, today as we should every day, we only attempt our repayment in the form of remembering them,” he said.
PHOTOS BY JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A folded American flag is placed among the wreaths at the War Memorial on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights during a Memorial Day ceremony.
The ceremony wrapped up with a single wreath placed at the large white obelisk monument in the center of the cemetery, followed by Al Kyriakides and Wayne Paul playing Taps.
In Colonial Heights, a wreath-laying ceremony was held to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and the veterans who are no longer with us.
Banners lined the Boulevard in front of the War Memorial, displaying the names and photos of those from the area who died while serving our country.
Speaking at the event, Col. Jack Haley told the crowd to remember honor all of those who sacrificed, not just the war heroes.
“While this day is typically spent recalling the valor of those men and women who died in combat, we must never forget those quiet professionals, who answered that noble calling to serve the people of the United States. Their passing didn’t make headlines, but their lives and profound sense of duty and patriotism resonated with the soldiers they trained, the missions they executed with dedication, and the families they left behind. It’s the crusty drill sergeant who barked orders so the recruits knew how to handle stress. It’s the petty officer who helped mend a troubled marriage. It’s the chaplain who listened to and comforted a warrior who just lost a battle buddy,” he said.
Haley said these men and women die every day in hospitals and nursing homes rather than the battlefield.
“It is not where they died that matters, it is their life given over to the greater good of this nation that defines their legacy,” he said.
Lt. Col. Douglas E. Osborn spoke about the price paid for our freedom.
“At Arlington Cemetery and national cemeteries across our country, we are reminded why America has always been a reluctant warrior,” he said.
He called out the names of a few World War II veterans, and noted the sacrifice of that generation as they traveled abroad to fight for freedom. He said today’s generation has fought a similar fight to make the world a better place.
“For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, today is a day of last letters and fresh tears. ... We take comfort from knowing that the men and women who are serving in freedom’s cause understand a purpose and its price,” he said.
A bell was rung for each of the dozens of names called out in the ceremony. Wreaths were brought to the memorial one by one by various groups and an American flag was carefully folded and placed at the site. Golden star-shaped balloons were released in memory of the fallen.
A crowd gathered at the Prince George Regional Heritage Center in remembrance of military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.
Prince George Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Robertson spoke at the ceremony, in which wreaths were laid at the monuments around the center to honor the Prince George residents who lost their lives fighting.
“I’m sure most of you have heard the saying ‘Freedom is not free,’” Robertson said. “It is the military who have provided us with freedom all these many years.”
As the JROTC presented colors, Prince George residents of every age looked on in remembrance of these soldiers who died protecting our country.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony, Fort Lee Garrison Commander Col. Rodney Edge, spoke to the crowd about remembering those fallen soldiers, and how it is everyone’s duty to honor their sacrifice.
“The flowers of the season are beginning to break through hallowed ground and remind us to honor those sleeping the long good night beneath it,” Edge said.
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The JROTC Honor Guard participates in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Prince George Regional Heritage Center.
Edge spoke of reflecting on the lives of the more than a million soldiers who sacrificed for their country, saying their stories are ones that “deserve to be heard, remembered, and honored.”
“Today is a day to tell stories of the soldiers of the battlefields of decades past, so the soldiers of yesterday and today are never forgotten by the children of tomorrow,” Edge said.
One story was of Korean War Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun. Kapaun was captured and taken to a prisoner camp in North Korea, where he died in 1951. Kapaun would stay behind on the battlefield, amidst the fighting, to minister to dying soldiers, which led to him being taken. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in April.
Another was 1st Lt. Ashley White Stumpf. Ashley joined a Cultural Support Team and traveled to Afghanistan. The elite team, made up of women, would travel with Army Rangers and Special Forces units to communicate with Afghani women, who would not speak with male soldiers. In 2011, Stumpf was killed on duty by an improvised explosive device.
During the ceremony, the names of fallen soldiers from Prince George were read, dating back to the Civil War, ending with the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. With help from Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, a wreath was placed at each of the three monuments to honor the fallen soldiers.
As the flags hung at half mast, Edge reminded the crowd that although the day would be filled with friends and fun, and while the smell of hot dogs and burgers filled the air, it is our duty as citizens to not forget the real reason for Memorial Day, to honor those who gave us what he said to be the greatest gift that could ever be given: freedom.
“It is our responsibility as citizens to remember the nations brave fallen men and women, whether they died in foreign lands in the heat of battle, or after a lifetime in uniform to our nation, we must never forget them,” Edge said.