Honoring fallen soldiers

A sentimental tune played by the Marine Corps Band set the scene for a day of remembrance at Quantico National Cemetery on Monday.

About 700 people attending the 20th annual Memorial Day Ceremony were told not only to salute those fallen from many wars of the past, but to look on to the men and women who now wear the uniform.

Speaking about Sept. 11’s new victims of war, Leo Mackay Jr., deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs and guest speaker, said Americans now have a new challenge.

“America’s young men and women in uniform have demonstrated that they will not flag or fail in the face of our enemy,” Mackay said.

After all, the new generation has many older veterans, dead and alive, to look up to.

“Memorial Day is a time to take stock on the present to remember the past,” he said. “They have given for this country time and time again.”

Brig. Gen. Leif H. Hendrickson, president of the Marine Corps University who also spoke at the ceremony, said a musical score played the band made him recall a scene from the film “Saving Private Ryan,” in which an Army captain who laid dying after protecting a young private told the soldier to live a good life to fully earn his freedom.

“As we are here today as Americans let us ask ourselves, have we earned the legacy of those men and women who gave their lives to this country?,” Hendrickson said.

“We need to focus on the citizenship of this country and of our children,” he later said in an interview.

While some attendees were at the cemetery to visit graves of old friends and family members, and some were veterans themselves, others came simply to pay respect to people they never knew.

“We are grateful Americans and we honor those who gave more than we,” said Andrew Kaye, a Chantilly resident who never served in the military.

Kaye and his family sat among the rows of men, women and children decked in red, white and blue attire. “We want our 12-year-old son to understand the land of the free, the home of the brave,” said his wife, Carol-Ann Kaye.

To Navy and Marine Corps veteran Terry Barnes, the patriotic gestures are much appreciated. “Given that I wore the uniform for 16 years, the people are our future and it is important to show them what this country is about,” he said. “They’re the heart and soul of what this country is.”

Staff writer Louise Cannon can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.

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