Flags for fallen soldiers
May 28th, 2011
08:04 PM ET

As Memorial Day beckons, soldiers pay respect to war dead

As the nation prepared to celebrate Memorial Day by relaxing with family and friends, some U.S. soldiers partook in a far more somber ritual: Visiting the gravesites of fallen comrades.

Staff Sgt. Bradley Falls, an Afghanistan veteran, said he deemed it an honor to come to Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery and plant fresh, crisp flags in the burial plots of soldiers past.

“It’s especially an honor for us when you’ve been on the other side of it and now you can come here and you can bring honor to their final resting place,” Falls said.

“We all know somebody buried here personally,” he said as he leaned down and jabbed a small flag into the soil.

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Sgt. Cherry Smith, an Iraq veteran, said she has a greater appreciation for the sacrifice of men and women in uniform.

“Now that I’ve actually served and came from Iraq, (I realize) they paid the way, so without them we wouldn’t be here,” she said.

But the stoic remembrances were not just left to service members. Civilians also have found ways to memorialize U.S. soldiers killed in combat.

Numerous cities around the nation planned Memorial Day observances to honor the U.S. armed forces.

High school student Ricky Gilleland, 17, runs a website that serves as a virtual database for soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Looking at his website, Preserveandhonor.com, Ricky said he is struck by how young the men and women were who have given their lives for their country.

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“It’s sad because I come here and look at the birth dates and death dates and I think, ‘These are kids not much older than me,'" he said.

The site has received more than 1 million hits since its October launch.

Ricky said his intent is to provide families with a way, however small, to commune with their dead loved ones and appreciate their sacrifice.

“I hope that they can go on (the website) and feel a little bit of comfort in knowing that they’re not just a number of casualties, or anything like that, they’re actual people.”

Also, the nation's military leaders expressed admiration for soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and bases around the world.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates choked up recently when talking about the responsibility of sending Americans off to two wars.

"I've done my best to care for them as though they were my own sons and daughters," Gates said when he was at the White House last month. "They are the best America has to offer ... And I will miss them deeply."

"Virtually every day since taking this post, I've written condolence letters to the families of the fallen," Gates said in a videotaped Memorial Day message. "I will always keep all of you in my heart and in my prayers as long as I live - as should all Americans."

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recalled the loss of his buddies while he served in Vietnam.

He said his Memorial Day will be spent at home in El Paso, Texas, visiting the Fort Bliss National Cemetery and the grave of his father-in-law, who served in World War II and Korea.

"The experience of Vietnam, at least for me, is not just reserved for Memorial Day," Reyes said from his Washington office. "I think back to the buddies I lost in Vietnam."

"War is not like it is in the movies ... there is no music. There is constant fear, body parts, death."

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Filed under: Medal of Honor • Military • Veterans
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    Dear God, please bring our troops home. Enough gone and enough suffering.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • USA#1

      God bless America and all who defend her. Have YOU thanked a soldier today? My red, white and blue is flying high today. Thank you to all the brave men and women who are serving and have served their country! Go USA!!!

      May 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cesar's estranged papa

      Cesar! Este es tu padre! Te arrojado del cielo por lo que un pequeño gusano que eres. Usted es incapaz de nada bueno y creo que se divierten mucho ahí abajo en la tierra. Tengo una eternidad de aburrimiento como su castigo. Espero que recuerde siempre que traté de ayudarle, pero estoy seguro de que sólo seguirá a mí maldición y me hacen ser el malo de la película. Diviértete en tu jaula poco oscuro, con todos sus deseos, pero no hay dolor o placer.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nur amabo nur

    The military industrial complex kills our young men and women for the gain of international businesses. Nothing more nothing less. I'm pretty sure we are not in danger of being invaded by Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. If we are then our citizens with weapons can handle them.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • james

      really? they do not fight in warfare they fight in sneaky attacks like 9/11 so guns do not matter

      May 28, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane W

      Did you miss that the terrorists came from this region? The people who brought war to our land and now our men and women are fighting there now to prevent this again......so instead of beating down on our military show respect for those out in the desert while we are here making comments from our living rooms

      May 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      @nur: Very true. The Devil is the king of deception and has used the media to brainwash everyone young and old. The news is often wrong including stories on this blog. Whether the errors are factual, or grammatical doesn't matter, for those ignorant on certain subjects will treat it as gospel. If we take everything the news says as 100% true then a well informed person would say ththat WWII or Korea might have been the last noble uses of our military. If we agree that 9/11 happened then Bush's response to that attack was very poor and our strategy in Afghanistan does reak of big defense lobbyists pulling the strings. The US gave Saddam chemical and biological weapons yet daddy Bush let him go in 1991. All of a sudden Bush jr. 13 years later decides to use media induced fear mongering to get a 70% approval from the US population to invade Iraq because Saddam had weapons they gave him. Any thinking man or woman knows when something doesn't make sense. I would caution against calling service men and women out on this, because many sign up for noble reasons. I understood what you were saying though and I know you weren't trying to say anything bad about the troops, rather you were saying their lives shouldn't be squandered, and I agree 100%.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jordan

    A deep, heartfelt thank you to my late grandfather, my father, and my husband who has and who are continuing to serve and protect our country, our freedoms, while protecting their lives. I love you all...

    May 28, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • USA#1

      And I would like to thank them too. God bless our military. They put their lives on the line for YOU and ME. Let's hope they all come home safe and sound.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      I'm not blessing anyone that kills civilians and the US does it more than any of it's aggressors. You don't destroy evil by becoming evil yourself.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Tell your husband to come home safe and sound from his deployment, that is a direct order to him.

      May 29, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    God bless our troops.
    (I like a man in uniform)
    : )

    May 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Just Wondering

    Are all the holidays just for the military? People put flowers on all the graves. Bring the troops home.

    May 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe Moore

    God bless the American military.

    May 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. to the troll

    Had you not let your father diddle you as a kid you couldve been a real man. .but you are weak and useless and i got the last word on that

    May 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    @troll 8:42: Shut up stupid.

    May 28, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tony Gerards (the other side of things)

    Shout outs to Banas....y , jazz 7, Mmmm , cesar(the real one), ruffnutt , elephant nutts , and the teen age mutant rodent-bung super/fighters the rest of you can PHUC OFF !!!........

    May 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Aunt Jemima aka; Mrs. Buttersworth brand

    Anybody want to smack yo big ass lips on some of my fry ckikken wit louisiana hot and a maple syrup glaze it will have u screamen fo more. Get back if u wan some

    May 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dante

    Saluting our men and women in uniform.


    May 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. unkown- age 16

    Thanks to all our soldiers/veterans out there who have risked their lives for us. Thank you Paul for fighting in the Vietnam War, I love you and admire you for that. Again, thanks to all the veterans out there for all they do. I think it is great about what the soldiers did at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      I have some good buddies buried at Arlington, who died in the line of duty during this war.
      I know of that detail, it is an all volunteer detail. And it brought tears to my eyes to remember that those men will not be forgotten, their graves unvisited by comrades in arms.

      May 29, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  13. Catholic Priest

    I just love babysitting young children........ Its why i was put on this earth..!!.... By God

    May 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nur amabo nur

    @me every FREE person has the right to their beliefs, typical enlisted man believes they will fight for a just cause. I feel youth plays a big role, when I was younger I had no idea how devious the international banks and businesses are, its unfortunate that our troops don't understand that's who they are fighting for. No disrespect to them, its their freedom to believe what they want. I would never question that our troops are the best trained fighting force in the world. I do however question the causes they die for. The way catholics follow the pope soldiers follow the commander in chief. But keep it real we're not protecting our country in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Thank you for your insult to my men and buddies who died in the line of duty defending this nation. Thank you for insulting the death of my cousin, who died in the south tower of the World Trade center on 9/11.
      May you and your entire family endure the justice that you deserve for your lack of human compassion, may your family be stricken 7000 times over as a lesson to others. May your home town be stricken from the face of this Earth, so that none like you could venture forth ever again from there.
      For, I HAVE BEEN in the war zone and buried many good friends. May the Taliban and Al Qaida find the justice that they deserve for attacking innocent civilians and hiding behind women and children, both in this life and the next.
      For the latter justice will be served HOT.
      And may you join them in their final, hot resting place for eternity.

      May 29, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Wzrd1

    Rest peacefully, old friends. You did your duty to the best of your ability, we continued, but always miss you.

    May 29, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Ardikani

      Hey there Wzrd1. Just another 'idiot' in uniform here, thinking of buddies I have in the sandbox right now. Been working here, idiot me, for my mids shift, reading dozens of articles and looking at slideshow after slideshow of Memorial Day pics. And you know something? One of the stories that hit me the hardest was the one about a pair of Marines that gave their lives to stop a suicide bomber a couple years back in Iraq, I think. Cpl Johnathan Yale and LCpl Jordan Haerter. I nearly cried, and I am not ashamed.

      Reading their story made me proud to wear a uniform of the armed forces of the United States. For, despite my idiocy for joining the military and not having a clue who I'm fighting for (apparently), I will never forget that even my freedoms have been secured by the blood of my brothers and sisters where they have fallen so far from home. Who knows, maybe someday soon, I will go overseas and get the chance to stand for the same freedoms that so many love to abuse. And if I should die, I will die knowing that I chose to do what so many, sadly, will not. Not many understand that stupid view of mine. But my life means little overall. And if I am destined to give my life for the country I love, I will do so gladly and without regret.

      Rest in peace, fallen heroes. And to the warriors defending us now, you are in my thoughts always. I and many others like me are watching your backs from afar. We will never forget.

      And to anyone that cares, take a listen to the song Hero by Nickelback, and then you may understand what drives so many like me to do something that so few will actually understand.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
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