Residents gathered Monday at the Great Falls Freedom Memorial, located behind the Great Falls Library, for a special Memorial Day commemorative ceremony. The tribute opened with words from Bob Pattavina, president of the Friends of the Great Falls Freedom Memorial. Pattavina thanked the crowd for honoring U.S. soldiers through their participation in the ceremony.
Signs of patriotism could be seen on all – from the small children to the elderly – and ranged from hats with American flags, to patriotic necklaces and other various accessories. The invocation, read by the Rev. Paul Gysan, explained through a poem that "freedom isn’t free."
"Remember with compassion, those who died in war," said Gysan to the crowd surrounding the Freedom Memorial. Old Brogue owner Michael Kearney followed Gysan, and honored 24 fallen soldiers from the Dranesville district by reciting their names.
"This man knows the meaning and significance of Memorial Day," said Pattavina, a retired United States Marine Corps colonol, as he introduced the keynote speaker of the morning, retired United States Marine Corps General Vicente Blaz.
Blaz, who once escaped a Japanese concentration camp in order to bring back food for starving prisoners, served in both the Vietnam and the Korean Wars. He opened his speech by expressing his gratitude.
"It is wonderful that Great Falls has done this to memorialize those who serve our country," said Blaz. "I’m so glad to see that there are also young people here, for it is they we have to remind us why this day is so important."
Blaz concluded by saying that every person has an experience worth noting, and for those willing to fight and serve for freedom, "life has a special flavor."