Recalling the era when Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day, members of American Legion Post 176 from Springfield and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7327 of Lorton gathered at the Lorton Post to commemorate the somber holiday Monday morning.
“Many people do not realize that Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30 until an act of Congress changed that in 1970,” said VFW Senior Vice Commander Wayne Yancey. “That change, to the fourth Monday in May to provide a long weekend, underlies the sacrifice made by the 1.4 million lives lost to war,” he said.
For over 230 years, service men and women have died defending the rights and privileges of Americans, said VFW Junior Vice Commander- elect David Boggs, freedoms he said many citizens take for granted.
“Many people continue to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, but Memorial Day is a sacred day of remembrance for those who gave their lives,” Boggs said. “Serving in the armed forces has always been a noble calling. We know our nation is still able to call on its sons and daughters to protection our nation’s way of life.”
VETERANS TOOK turns sharing their stories, saluting one another as they passed. For each, the impact from memories of comrades who had fallen in battle or natural causes was plain on their faces.
“When we remember, we think of sadness,” said American Legion Post Commander James Kampanos. “But we need to think that they went willingly so we could be free. Young people today are giving their lives in battle, while others may give their lives a few years later because of the conditions under which they are fighting. We thank them for that.”
His wife, Paula Kampanos, president of the American Legion Post 176 Auxiliary, said she recently made a trip to the memorial for those who died at Pearl Harbor during World War II.
“Standing above the ship, looking into the water, it was awe-inspiring,” she said. Choking back emotion, she said she had the same feeling participating in the national Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally on Sunday, May 28, hearing thousands of motorcycle-riding veterans gather on the National Mall to advocate for the return of Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.
“You hear theses guys talking about their bikes, but they’re also talking about their fallen comrades,” she said. “They were talking about the friends they lost in Vietnam. They attend Rolling Thunder to remember.”
VFW Post Commander Larry Parham said he, too, rode in the Rolling Thunder rally on Sunday, a “very, very moving experience” that allowed him to “listen to hundreds of thousands of men and women remembering those who have fought and fallen before us.”
In fact, so many riders gathered at the Pentagon’s north parking lot to participate in Rolling Thunder that, when Parham left at 2:30 p.m., two and a half hours into the parade, “half of the parking lot was still full of people,” he said.
Commemorating Memorial Day with services to honor fallen veterans is “our duty,” said Sons of the American Legion Squadron Commander Terry Breyman, who remembered wearing the trademark red poppy handed out by the American Legion to school during Decoration Day when he was a child in the 1950s.
“It’s hard to believe so many people take today for granted,” he said. “Let us not forget what this is about.”