Hours before the Herndon Memorial Day Ceremony at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Herndon, members of the Herndon High School Junior Naval ROTC were already hard at work. They were preparing the Avenue of Flags, where casket flags of fallen service members were displayed along the main road in the cemetery.
"It’s a very meaningful event for us, to be able to raise these flags representing American heroes," said junior Andrew Goldin. "They all have stories, and hopefully people can stop and think about that for a day."
The students also were the last ones at the cemetery that afternoon, just before dusk they lowered the dozens of flags and folded them the proper way.
In between, dozens of Herndon residents gathered to commemorate the lives of all those who have been killed defending their country. The annual Memorial Day ceremony also featured members of American Legion Post 184 and State Sen. Mark Herring (D-33).
"Though Memorial Day is known as the unofficial start of summer, it’s not about barbecues or picnics," said David Kirby, commander of American Legion Post 184.
Kirby reminded the audience of Sgt. 1st Class Lance Voegler of Frederick, Md. Voegler was killed in October 2010 during his eighth tour of duty of Afghanistan. He also served four tours in Iraq.
"This man was a husband and father who gave and gave to this country until he had nothing left," Kirby said. "Remembering the fallen one day per year isn’t enough. The mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and children of these men and women remember every day."
Herring said the legacy of fallen service members should serve as an example to take care of all those who have served.
"We can honor the memory of our fallen heroes by supporting our current heroes and by making sure we always take care of our veterans," he said. "Virginia is home to the second highest number of active duty military and the sixth highest number of veterans, and we’re fortunate that the military is such a large part of our communities. Our veterans reflect our most cherished values."
Jake Melsing of Herndon said he brought his two children to the event so they could experience firsthand the importance of remembering fallen service members.
"My wife’s father is buried at Arlington [National Cemetery], and they’ve been there to see his stone, but it’s important that they see that respecting the legacy of the military isn’t just a stone in the ground," Melsing said. "I wanted them to meet some veterans and see how appropriate it is to honor them."
Kirby and Herring concluded the ceremony by placing a wreath at the memorial to unknown soldiers at Chestnut Grove.
Members of the Junior ROTC often carry the colors at community events and football games, but junior Fiorella Garcia said it was special to do it at a Memorial Day event.
"It’s nice to be able to do this in front of the people who have served, and people who came to honor those who have served," she said.