Service honors those lost protecting nation

Published 9:16 pm Monday, May 25, 2009

Under a blistering sun, hundreds turned out at cemeteries across the nation — including two in Suffolk — on Monday to honor America’s fallen warriors.

Veterans and active-duty members of the United States armed forces joined with family, friends and others for Memorial Day ceremonies Monday at Suffolk’s Cedar Hill Cemetery and at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

The military presence at the Horton cemetery — one of two state-operated cemeteries for veterans and their spouses — was of special note, as a US Army Honor Guard from Fort Eustis performed a 21-gun salute following the placing of wreaths by various veterans’ and survivors’ organizations.

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Command Sgt. Major David M. Bruner of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe was the keynote speaker.

“For those (veterans and active service members) gathered here today, Memorial Day is not a day off,” he said. “Memorial Day is a day on duty.”

The salutes were sharp and the uniforms crisp among those assembled for the event in temperatures that reached into the high 80s. Throughout the crowd of observers, umbrellas sheltered participants — many of whom had traveled from out of town for the event — from the sun’s rays.

“New Horizon,” a musical group comprising honorably discharged service members who have beaten drug and alcohol addictions, presented “The American Melody,” an upbeat program of patriotic and gospel songs that had had audience members dancing and swaying in their seats.

Also speaking during the program was Congressman Randy Forbes (R-4th), who said Americans can best remember and honor their veterans not just with ceremonies such as the one held Monday, but also by taking care of them and their survivors and “by making sure we don’t let them down … by making sure we keep this country free.”

“We do not forget whose shoulders we stand on,” Forbes said. “We promise you that we will not let you down.”

The Horton cemetery showed signs of the growth it has experienced since it opened a few years ago. With an ever-increasing number of veterans choosing to have their remains interred there, the grounds reveal numerous bare patches where grass still has not grown back after recent funerals.

Service members who were honorably discharged qualify for burial in one of Virginia’s veterans’ cemeteries. A gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, placement of a government marker and perpetual care of the site all are provided to the veteran at no charge.

Veterans’ spouses and eligible dependent children may be interred for a fee, currently $300.

A second cemetery, the Virginia Veterans Cemetery, is located in Amelia. A third is under construction in Dublin. All three are operated by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

Monday’s Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony was sponsored by Chapter No. 2 of the Disabled American Veterans and its Auxiliary.