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Commentary: A Day To Remember, Celebrate U.S. Heroes

When you walk down the ramp to enter Alexandria's American Legion Post 24 (at the base of the pole flying the American flag), a brass plaque to your left reads: “For God and Country. Erected to the memory of the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines from Alexandria, Virginia who gave their lives during the World War.” The names of the dead are listed.

Public Invited

American Legion Post 24 will host a remembrance ceremony May 28 at Alexandria National Cemetery, 1450 Wilkes St., at 11 a.m. The ceremony is open to the public and will be followed by a reception at 400 Cameron St. Enter the cemetery where Wilkes Street dead ends. Enter Post 24 at the base of the flag pole. Read the plaque.

Much history underlies that plaque.

The referenced “World War” was World War I. The last name on the plaque, William Thomas, was African American and during the segregation era. Alexandria's Post 129 was established in his name. The American Legion Auxiliary of Post 24 donated the plaque.

The Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion worked side by side with veterans to serve Legion purposes and principles. Those principles originated with the formation of the American Legion in 1919, led by Lt. Col. Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Jr., the eldest son of the 26th President. These forefather veterans were not focused on war. The WW I veterans were war-weary. One purpose for the Legion, indeed, was to lift their morale. Other purposes were to serve veterans and to serve the principles for which they fought.

The Legion's existence and its purposes were formalized by an Act of Congress followed by other Congressional acts sought by the Legion such as the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau (now Department of Veterans Affairs) and the first GI bill. Children and youth programs (in part to counter fascism), emergency relief funds and much more were established by the early American Legion.

Much has changed since the dedication of Post 24's World War plaque. And much has not changed.

Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen continue to die in the service of their country. Their veteran comrades, sons and daughters continue to honor those who died and to serve the principles that they died to preserve.

The Legion continues its efforts on behalf of national security, children and youth, and veterans and veteran rehabilitation, and we remember those who died in service of their country.

Memorial Day is a day to remember. Memorial Day also is a day to celebrate. It is a day to celebrate the memories of these heroes and their families. It is a day to celebrate the principles of America for which they died, principles which continue to be served today.

Remember and celebrate these men and women who died in the wars and other conflicts after the World War, but also all of the principles which they served and which their comrades, sons and daughters, and great-grandsons and daughters, continue to serve.