Families, guests join to honor veterans’ service, sacrifice

Published 4:33 pm Monday, May 31, 2010

When Jimmie Carroll buried her husband, James “Jimmie” Carroll at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Veterans Cemetery in January 2006, the gravesites at the new cemetery occupied only about half of the first section of space there.

Today, that section is nearly full, and cemetery officials are preparing to move into another field across one of the facility’s roads for new burial plots.

Looking out across hundreds of graves that have been filled since her husband — a Vietnam veteran — died six years after he received a lung transplant, Carroll searched for words to express what it means to her to be able to visit Horton Cemetery to see the graves of he and so many others who served their nation in battle.

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“It’s very different from going out to City Park [cemetery] to visit my parents,” the Portsmouth resident said. “There’s really something sacred and solemn out here.”

On a day set aside to give special honor to those who lost their lives in the line of duty while serving in the American armed forces, hundreds of veterans were joined at the Horton Cemetery in Suffolk by family and friends as they remembered their brothers in arms who were lost in service.

“We have come to honor those men and women who have given their all to this nation,” VFW Post Commander David Brinkley told the crowd. “[Their] legacy is service, their heritage is sacrifice and their gift to us is freedom.”

“We will not forget,” said WAVY News 10 anchor Kerri Furrey, the opening speaker for the event.

Furrey, herself a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said she takes it hard whenever she hears about another local member of the armed services who has been killed in the fighting overseas.

“I take it personal, because I’m a mother and a sister, a daughter, a wife, a good friend,” she said.

“We have come here to remember and honor those who did their duty as God allowed them to see their duty,” Virginia Senator Louise Lucas (D-18th), the keynote speaker, said.

Lucas said too many Americans have forgotten the true meaning of Memorial Day, and she urged people to spend some time honoring the sacrifices of the many men and women who have been lost in conflicts throughout the nation’s history.

Also, she said, those returning from engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan — “soldiers dressed in desert camouflage moving through airports” — are worthy of Americans’ respect and honor and cannot be allowed to become “transparent” amidst worries about domestic issues.

Such transparency, she said, leads to a separation between those who serve and the ones back home on whose behalf they serve.