Veteran Floyd Houston broke from a line of fellow veterans at a Memorial Day commemoration on Monday. During the playing of 'Taps' he walked to the nearby flagpole, untied the flag's rope and lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-mast.
A government employee had hoisted the flag to the top of the mast before the ceremony started. Houston lowered the flag to make its position more appropriate for the occasion.
Members of the Fairfax County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8469 and a few spectators gathered on the grounds of the Fairfax Court House on Monday to commemorate Memorial Day.
Another veteran at the event focused on the sadness of the day and the wars it commemorates. Blaine Friedlander visited Hiroshima in 1951, six years after the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on it. It was horribly desolate, Friedlander said. "I will never forget it."
Despite wars' tragedies even on Memorial Day people should not focus on just the war dead, Houston told those assembled for the commemoration in a prepared speech.
"While the sacrifice is certainly real and heartbreaking, the singular focus on that sacrifice alone, rather than also recognizing the heroic contributions of those men and women, diminishes their sacred memory," Houston said. "We remain a great nation because at moments of great need, brave people step forward and accomplish great and noble tasks."
HOUSTON TOLD those in attendance that former Fairfax County resident James W. Robinson Jr. was such a person. Robinson, for whom Robinson Secondary is named, battled a numerically superior enemy in Vietnam in the Vietnam War. As a sergeant leading a unit in April 1966, "all day long Sgt. Robinson performed individual acts of heroism, any one of which would have merited the award of the silver star for valor," Houston said.
"He organized ... his squad, he rescued wounded men under fire, he went out and found ammunition and redistributed it as necessary, but at the end of the day, at the end of his day, the enemy deployed a machine gun to a position which threatened to wipe-out his soldiers," Houston said. "They were almost out of ammunition. Sgt. Robinson took the squads' last two grenades and charged that machine gun. His squad-mates later testified that his uniform was literally on fire from having so many tracers going through it. Sgt. Robinson sacrificed himself to destroy that machine gun and for his selfless heroism, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award for battlefield valor."
At Monday's ceremony, VFW 8469 members read the names of all Fairfax County's military personnel who have died in combat from World War I to the present.
Almost as much history was shared among the assembled veterans as there was among those veterans who died.
Jack Price fought as an infantryman in the Asian theater at Guadalcanal and at New Georgia Island, where he was shot. Bill Sheads landed on a beach near Normandy the night the Allied invasion started. Bob Van Houten was captured in the Battle of the Bulge.
Others fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Bob Williams fought in both wars, receiving the Silver Star. John McAnaw was awarded six Bronze Stars for his duties in Vietnam.
Houston represented new history for the VFW post. He recently served in Afghanistan as a civil affairs specialist.