Sounds of trumpets and flutes playing Stars and Stripes Forever swelled as Charlottesville honored fallen service members at the Ting Pavilion Monday morning.
The Memorial Day celebration, hosted by Charlottesville’s John C. Culin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1827, included performances of patriotic music by the Charlottesville High School Marching Band, as well as a bagpiper and a rifle salute. Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Juandiego Wade and councilor Sena Magill represented the city in attendance.
“It is my hope that through your presence here today, you will inspire others to undertake a renewed devotion to this whole community responsibility and encourage some generations to ever be vigilant to the true cost of freedom,” VFW Post 1827 Commander Alexis Roman told the crowd.
Keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel James Diehl, a retired Marine Corps veteran who served for 32 years, said it took him a long time to realize the reason for the sacrifice of military members.
“I remember thinking, perhaps immaturely, this is a lousy deal. We have these elaborate military funerals. And we fold the flag ever so carefully and give it to the grieving spouse but I thought ‘that’s not much of a trade,’” he said.
Diehl shared an anecdote of his time serving in New York City during the bicentennial that changed his perspective.
“It was a hot July afternoon and I’m watching kids play on old chess boards in the shade, chatting on benches, playing in the playground. And it dawned on me that it’s not about the flag. It’s about freedom,” he said. “Those kids can grow up to be anything they want to be. They get to choose their profession and choose their goals and set out to achieve them.”
Diehl encouraged the crowd to support the family and friends of fallen service members, and to allow them to grieve in their own way and in their own time.
“Make yourself available, be flexible and be persistent. Be supportive,” he said.
Brightly colored floral wreaths, sponsored by various veterans groups and other organizations, were displayed in front of the pavilion stage in memory of service members killed in the line of duty.
Colonel Maurice Roesch, Marine Corps veteran and Commandant of the Marine Corps League Bradley T. Arms Detachment 1256, laid a wreath on behalf of his program.
“We’ve all lost friends and loved ones and, it’s wonderful to have a formal ceremony to remember them and that the whole country stands still for a day to remember those wonderful people that went before us really did give the final measure to support the country and our freedom,” Roesch said.
Members of the Disabled American Veterans Charlottesville Chapter 33 handed out blue felt forget-me-nots, which demonstrate support for veterans disabled through their service.
“Today is all about the guys that have fallen to protect our freedoms, and paying homage to those that gave the last full measure of service,” said Robert Clouser, an Army veteran and Commander of Disabled American Veterans Charlottesville Chapter 33.
The VFW also handed out traditional red “buddy” poppies to honor those fallen since World War I.
U.S. Army First Sergeant Oscar Perez, who actively serves at the National Ground Intelligence Center, said it’s important as an active serviceman to come to events like this to take time to honor the fallen who came before.
“We’re honoring our brothers and sisters that paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. We enjoy the freedoms that they paid for, and we have to honor them,” Perez said.