The familiar sound of bagpipes filled the air, their haunting song hinting at the gravity of war.
During the Memorial Day ceremony at McLean High School, members of the American Legion Post 2708 from McLean shared only a few thoughts and well-wishes for those who have served and fallen, as well as those who continue to fight to protect freedom.
"There are 140,000 young veterans in the Middle East right now," said Del. Vince Callahan, his own American Legion cap proudly on his head, covered in pins and other emblems of service.
"This is a day when we stop and pause," said Janie Strauss, the Dranesville District representative on the Fairfax County Board of Education.
She spent Sunday in downtown Washington, D.C., visiting the Mall and all its memorials.
"There are so many beautiful granite edifices there to honor those who served, but the most beautiful to me has always been the Korean Memorial," she said. "We sometimes forget about the faces of the soldiers in battle. We forget about the faces of the families. They remember the hardships of war, they know what it's like to wait for a loved one to return, they know the pain of finding out they never will."
The Korean Memorial, she said, "is a monument of soldiers with real faces. This is the face of war and service."
She spoke of Scott Clendaniel, son of Langley High School principal Bill Clendaniel, who is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. She spoke of Chris Ristig, a McLean High School graduate whose mother, Linda, teaches at Franklin Sherman Elementary School.
"Today, we remember a recent graduate of McLean High School who lost his life last year," Strauss said. "Today we remember and pray for him. We hope these young men and women today remember that freedom isn't free."
Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois said the simple ceremony reminded her of the small town commemorations she watched growing up.
"I remember the very day my uncle came home from World War II," she said. "I have friends who served in Vietnam. This is a wonderful ceremony to remember their sacrifices."
Shortly before a bugler played Taps to close the ceremony, the chairman of the American Legion's Americanism committee, Jack McMahon, reminded those who gathered what Memorial Day is about.
"Today, we have to pay tribute to those who have gone before us, for their service to our nation," McMahon said.