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Celebrating Memorial Day

This Memorial Day will be a special one for Peter Hilgartner.

As president of the Friends of the Great Falls Freedom Memorial, it will be the first Memorial Day ceremony held at the Memorial, which opened last fall in time to celebrate Veteran's Day.

"We're basing our celebration on the dedication ceremony, but we're going to try to make things a little simpler," he said. "There's a certain amount of timidity. We want to do something simple."

The ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m., is expected to take less than an hour and feature comments from Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois and Joshua Roots, a Marine Corps captain currently stationed in California before heading to Iraq for the third time in as many years.

"Less than 1 percent of the American population is actively engaged in the war on terror," Hilgartner said. "Josh is going back for another tour. There's not enough people enlisted to go for a year, come home for a year before going again. For a family like the Roots, that's a huge sacrifice."

Being able to have Roots home the first time the Memorial is "used for what it was designed for" just makes the ceremony all the more special, he said. "We worked for three years to get this memorial together for the people of Great Falls," he said.

Ideally, the memorial would be used for various holidays throughout the year, including July 4, September 11, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, he said. "We've been coordinating with Supervisor DuBois' office to make it nice but to the point," said committee member Bob Pattavina. "Memorial Day is a busy day as it is, but it looks like we'll have some fairly patient people."

Members of the Friends of the Great Falls Freedom Memorial are hoping the Memorial Day ceremony will be "something we can use in the present and in the future," he said.

The ceremony will include the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue color guard and an invocation from Rev. Richard Keller from the Great Falls United Methodist Church. Laura Zambro, a Fairfax County police officer, will sing the National Anthem. An invitation was extended to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars offices in McLean, Pattavina said. "We're trying to include as many people as possible," he said.

The American Legion Post in McLean will be holding their own ceremony at 11 a.m. at McLean High School, featuring a flag retirement ceremony following a commemoration at the Class of 1980's Vietnam War "Dad's" Stone at the school, located in the Memorial Court just outside the main entrance.