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. show me forensic evidence al-qaeda did 911

    We are still waiting. It's been 10 yrs. now. We thought there would be a trial where al-qaeda's leader was proven to be guilty, but someone had this suspect murdered before we could have an American trial. Remember when mobsters used to do this? Murder people before there could be a trial? There will be a trial ya know. Several of the 911 victim's families turned-down Bush's cash offer to drop the whole thing. These few families are STILL pursueing justice. Murdering one suspected crimibal does not equal justice, and these few families know this to be true. But you don't.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Xugos

      They confessed...multiple times.

      If you still don't believe it, you are beyond logic and reason.

      May 29, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. in the line of duty? lmao

    So you died protecting China's oil supply so that we could have the "freedom" to buy cheap stuff at Wal-Mart? War is fast losing it's lustre and glory. Even war has been cheapened by todays new standards.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. fernace

    This year I read Tim O'Briens book "The Things They Carried" about the VietNam experiece from a soldiers point of view. It's an incredible story, based on real accounts. I also saw "Black Watch", the play about the Scottish regiment deployed on Bush Jr.s watch, their story in Iraq. Also heart wrenching! I recomend both of these works. My best friend in H-Town was in Vietnam & made it back home to create incredible music with me, a true blessing! I do hope we bring our troops home soon. As a Super Power, I suppose it is our job as an ally nation to deploy our military in zones of unrest.I suppose it's a U.N. decree. I also realize that our soldiers choose this profession, are well trained, & aware of the dangers. Still doesn't make it easier to lose a loved one. Salute to the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. We keep you in our thoughts & hearts!

    May 29, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. Salute to the armed forces of the world!

    Good job guys! God loves you.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. Regular_Joe

    While we can, and should, debate and question the causes for which we go to war, those who follow their oaths and serve honorably, trusting in the course that WE the people are ultimately responsible for, have my respect. And I do not consider their sacrifice cheapened, even if there are many who refuse to understand it. Rest well indeed, my brothers in arms. We have not forgotten.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. HelenHull102951

    I think that there are way too many people out there that look at Memorial Day as just another day and reason to get together and party and to enjoy an extra day off from work... Every single American citizen should never forget what the real reason fof this very Special Day is all about!! This is a day to pay tribute and honor to those of us Veteran's that gave it all for not just the nation, but for each and every person in the U.S.!!! And as for tbose who are able to serve and have yet to do so, there is no greater feeling in the world than to know you have done your share to protect and serve this great nation of ours... *GOD BLESS THE U.S. *. "Wayne Hull, 2nd Ranger Bn. 82nd. Airborne/ Veit Nam

    May 29, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. in the line of duty? lmao

    How many soldiers have died protecting our borders from what your government called "al-qaeds's imminent invasion" nearly 10 years ago? C'mon! Congress voted in the largest increase for prison funding in history right after 9/11 "to house the tens-of-thousands of terrorists we will be arresting". Not one single soldier has died protecting our borders. (clue: those are Afghanistan's and Iraq's borders, not ours) What? "We took the war to them"? lmao...if thousands and thousands of ignorant Mexicans can sneek in, so could "the terrorists". So where are all of these tens-of-thousands of terrorists Congress planned on arresting. Why haven't the "terrorists" invaded US. Because they are too stupid? scared? what?

    May 29, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. So let me get this str8

    The judge said either I join the army or go to prison. So I joined the army. (duh) So now I get applause every memorial day for the rest of my life? What if I had been drafted/forced to join? Would you still think I'm the bees knees? Wait! What if i slick-willied it to Canada? Yep! You still view a draft-dodger as an genuine American. Yep, memorial day means nothing really. Right Monica?

    May 29, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      @ Sol let me get this str8......Memorial day is to honor the fallen...so STFU

      May 30, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. in the line of duty? lmao

    Wait! What if I were a Peruvian army grunt, and Colin Powell's Combat Services LTD offered me 5,850/mo to go awol and fight in Iraq. Would you honor me on memorial day? Hay! Do you honor Blackwater and Associates soldiers of fortune on memo day?

    May 29, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Supply Clerk honor

    If I were to get caught robbing a liquor store, and the judge said join the army or go to prison, and I joined the army and became a supply clerk in Saudi Arabia for 3 years, upon returning home and claiming permanent disability while still busting tires in my wife's tire shop while collecting 2,800/mo disability(i got an extra 10% for claiming i got ED in Saudi, ED, the 'can't get it up' disease)...would you still honor me on memo day?

    May 29, 2011 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      @ supply clerk.....go look up what memorial day is for...idiot.

      May 30, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Supply Clerk honor

    Yep! You would and you do! Even though I am one of the 10s of thousands who make fraudulent veterans claims, you still honor me every single year. Even though almost 80% of your defense budget goes for covering idiots like me, you still wave your flag at me. Are you freaking blind?

    May 29, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      No, people like you make me sick.

      May 30, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. chagrined

    I would like to remember the crew serving on the USS LIBERTY. On June 8, 1967, Israel committed a 'war crime' on the USS Liberty brutally murdering 34 and wounded 172 brave, patriotic Americans. Meeting a survivor of the attack on the USS Liberty was a profound experience. As he recounted that brutal terrorist attack by Israel, tears rolled down his face He recounted how Israel attacked the USS Liberty, a US intelligence-gathering ship in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967, killing 34 sailors and wounding 172. He talked about the bravery and valor of Captain William L. McGonagle and the crew in saving the LIBERTY He said he could remember it as clearly as if had happened yesterday. He can still smell the vomit and blood of the wounded and dying. America must remember this also! We must not forget how America betrayed the patriotic citizens serving on the USS Liberty. They have suffered the pain of the attack then the pain of betrayal by their country. America should have taken Israel off the map for this 'war crime.'

    May 29, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. hamza

    hooligans who were so miserable to sign to kill other people for a lousy bonus,are now rotting.just.

    May 29, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. The Watcher

    I am a proud veteran; proud of ALL of my fellow veterans. I am also humbled by the sacrifices many made to secure the freedoms I have enjoyed in this great country. I can't express my disgust and anger enough over what many in our government have done to keep us in wars that have no true meaning. However,that doesn't minimize the honor and the valor of my fallen comrades. Those of you who got the deferments, went to Canada, harassed us on our return, you carry that burden for the rest of your life and for good reason. I, in turn, carry the pride that all veterans have in knowing we did our best to keep our country safe. The rest of you, well, enjoy what you've been given.

    May 29, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Veteran

    To Dad, WWII 1942-1945 and to big brother David, Vietnam 1964-1967 who were both volunteers who served our country with honor and pride. Both survived three long years in the combat zone and both returned disabled, service-connected, combate veterans. Both were screwed-over by the Veterans Administration located in both in Nashville and Atlanta, and my mother was wrongly cheated out of any survivor benefits as well by Mr. Wheeler, the head adjudicator who stoped Dad's pension when he found out he had cancer and was dying. Regardless of these local redneck idiots, I salute these two brave men and may they RIP. Salute!

    May 29, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
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