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Remembering the Fallen

Veterans are remembered at Sterling Park's annual Memorial Day ceremony.

Area residents and visitors crowded onto the sidewalks, the grass and into the street Monday, May 30, to observe Sterling Park's annual Memorial Day ceremony.

Sunny skies and patriotism drew a group twice the size as last year's. Ed Lenick, commander of American Legion Post 150, served as master of ceremonies, coordinated veterans, bugle players, Boy Scouts and the United Methodist Church choir. Army National Guard Lt. Nick Compher, a Loudoun Valley High School graduate who spent a year in Iraq, spoke of the risks associated with warfare. Compher serves in the Army National Guard 276 Engineer Battalion in Richlands, Va.

HE SAID America's democratic way of life comes with a price. "It is a price unfathomable to this nation's rivals," he said. "Freedom, ladies and gentlemen, is not free."

He described his tour in Iraq as a blessing. "Yes, I call it a blessing and an opportunity," he said. "Each day, a new hero stepped forward."

Heroism came in the form of Sgt. 1st Class James Spurlock, who took his belt off, used it as a tourniquet, and saved a comrade from bleeding to death.

Compher recalled the loss of two soldiers in his unit when a suicide bomber entered the mess hall. He said Sgt. Nick Mason and Sgt. David Ruhren enlisted because they wanted to make a difference, not because they would have received a free college education. "These two men embodied the spirit of America," he said.

Compher said his friend Ryan Doltz, broke his foot in boot camp and learned he would not be allowed to go to Iraq. He persuaded the medical staff to let him go, and, he too, died as a result of a bomb.

Compher said America's soldiers belong in Iraq. "When I first arrived, it was evident these people needed so much help," he said.

Because of the hard work and sacrifices of these heroes, much has been accomplished. "The work they are doing over there is nothing short of spectacular," he said. "Remember the fallen on Memorial Day. Remember that all the freedoms we enjoy, somebody paid for [them].

"We are a nation, not just our military, but everybody, of common men and women that have uncommon courage and uncommon valor."

RON COLAN, a 66-year-old Sterling resident and a Vietnam veteran with the Army first infantry, described the ceremony as a "really great grassroots American" event. "I think itÕs all the fallen asks of us Ñ to be remembered," he said.

Donna Myer, a 60-year-old Leesburg resident and a Navy Vietnam veteran, said the nation should continue to observe Memorial Day annually. "And we should remember veterans every day," she said.

She and her husband, Don, another veteran, sang in the choir. Pulling a tissue from her pocket, she said, "it's an emotional experience every time."