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Virginians Honor Fallen Service Members During In-Person Ceremony Monday

Veterans at the Memorial Day ceremony
A group gathers to watch the Virginia War Memorial’s 65th annual Memorial Day ceremony.

The Virginia War Memorial’s 65th annual Memorial Day ceremony was open to the public on Monday, as the state had eased physical distancing and capacity restrictions the previous Friday. 

Last year’s ceremony was presented as a “virtual” event to honor Virginia's fallen service members. Dr. Clay Mountcastle, director of the Virginia War Memorial, said the gathering felt like a reason to celebrate. 

“We seem to be emerging from a strange, dark tunnel that has covered us for over a year,” Mountcastle said. “As much as many of us would love to celebrate today - really, truly the urge to celebrate is in the air - we should always remember that Memorial Day should be a somber day of reflection.”

Deceased service members’ names are inscribed on the walls of the Shrine of Memory.  The names of four Virginians were added this year:

Richard J., Harris, of Henrico, killed in action during the Korean War.

Donald May, of Richmond, killed in action in Iraq in 2003.

Humayun Khan, of Bristow, killed in action in Iraq in 2004.

Ben Maxwell, of Appomattox, killed in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut.

The names are not the most recent losses to war, but identities that were newly verified.  

Kathleen Jabs, Virginia’s Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs said the annual gathering is one way to show gratitude for those who gave their lives in service to their country.   

“But we must do more than gather and remember. We must act,” Jabs said. “We need to ensure that we take care of the families left behind, and that we appreciate the service members, families and veterans who are here among us.”

President Joe Biden announced last month that he would end the nation's longest military campaign in Afghanistan and bring all U.S.  troops home by September. Nearly 12,000 Virginians have been killed in action since World War II -- including 200 since Sept. 11 2001.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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