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. david

    As many of us combat veterans accept the support there are still those like the OHIO GOVERNOR that had no right to do what he did recently at a veteran hospital that left one recent combat veteran dead.

    May 29, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joey

    I am a veteran, and I am gay.,

    May 29, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Military Mom x 2

      So what? Proud that you have served this country but what does being a veteran and being gay have to do with this article? Nothing. Nada.

      May 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy

    I'm sick of veterans, get a job. Veterans love people to feel sorry for them.. When is this BS going to finish?

    May 29, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Not really worth a reply and I suggest no one else even bother. Love to all Vets and their families for all of the sacrifice they make to allow people like banasy the luxury to live free.

      May 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest

      @ Mike....don't feed the trolls please

      May 30, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    Is it Memorial Day already? Let's all chip-in and help the war veterans. Hmmm, seems to me I see a lot of them hanging-out in front of Wal-Mart these days. You can hardly tell that they are honorable war veterans...what with their shabby appearance and bloodshot eyes. If it were not for their signage (Viet-Nam Vet, please help, God Bless) you would think that they're a bunch of worthless bums. (worthless bum: an individual who, even though he's been awarded with disability pay, and even though the community churches feed him, still finds it necessarry to panhandle for booze/drug money)

    May 29, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bartholemew

    I would hate to think that soliers have given their lives so that we could be free to be sodomists or gluttons. This does appear to be the case though.

    May 29, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |

    thank you veterans for you sacrafices so that gay trolls can post gay things...

    May 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rhymeskeema

    War is humanity at it's lowest. Warriors are humans behaving their worst. Thanks for the day off, but the whole world would be better off without operatives, privates, sargeants, generals, insurgents, and the whole lot. I feel for the people who get tricked into becoming cannon fodder for rich men's wars. But I refuse to honor their poor choices.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |


      if it wasn't for the operatives, privates, sargeants, generals.. we would all be speaking german right now..

      May 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Military Mom x 2

      You sound so ungrateful. You do not appreciate the freedoms the veterans from ALL wars have provided you. Take your stupid butt in to work tomorrow if you can't spend the day honoring the veterans.

      May 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |

    Wrong again. If not for the 20 million Russian's who died during WW2, the Nazi's would have taken posession of Russia's oilfields(the same ones that now supply China) and would have had the energy to conquer the world.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |

      that's what i said... "we would all be speaking german right now"

      did you even read my comment? "we would all be speaking german right now" means that germany would have taken over everything...

      May 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |

    Russia didn't have "privates, sargeants, generals"...we did. We did not win the war, Russia did. Sure we lent them some equipment to help out. That hardly counts as winning. If not for the Russian people, we would be speaking German. The outcome of WW2 was decided at Stalingrad, not Normandy.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |

      i stand corrected... i guess all those people that died at normandy was for nothing and they were all punks.. and all americans were all backstabbing nazi lovers..

      May 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. @RUFFNUT

    And really, if not for our own Congress enforcing our laws prohibiting American's from doing business with the enemy (see the Trading with the Enemy act) Chase Manhattan would of kept right on lending money to Nazi's until we were all speaking German. Yes, before Congress enacted this special law, many American's were doing business with the Nazi's during the war. All of them stopped except one: Prescott Bush, the only man ever charged with violating the trading with the Enemy act of Congress. The Russians and our own Congress won WW2. Imagine what would have occured had Congress NOT acted.

    May 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |

      wow.. even ww2 was bush's fault...

      May 29, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HeIsGod

    Ellis, you can't even get a skinny woman in your arms, much less a one who is under 60 years old.

    May 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |

    HI!! well i cant stay cause i have a rightwing thug convention to attend..

    we're going to meet sarah palin..

    May 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |

    I guess you could say Normandy was a waste of human life. The Germans had all but ran out of fuel by that time, and were already retreating. US forces landing @Normandy faced only a skeleton crew of Nazis. Had Germany got their hands on Russias oil, troops landing would have faced the full-force of Nazi might. But it took nearly 2 years just to plan the invasion. Eisenhower never imagined that Russia would have already kicked Germany's ass by the time plans were finalized. So yeah, in that context, Normandy was in fact a waste of life.

    May 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |


      mothernature did most of the damage to the nazis in russia. the russians mistly retreated and let the germans freeze themselves...

      May 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |

    True, the Nazis were so sure of themselves, they didn't even bring warm coats nor antifreeze! thinking they could just roll-over Russia like they did France. (France had the largest and best equipped military in Europe at that time, so why would Nazis think differently?) What the nazis failed to realize is the difference between a frenchman and a real man. (remember the Vichy regime? Frances government that helped Nazis...not real men. Cowards) Anyway, the war is over. We got Werhner von Braun and the V-1 rocket(aka NASA) out of the deal (along with diamonds. DeBeers was originally a Nazi outfit that joined up with some American businessmen during the war. After the war, they changed their name to "The North-American Mining Corp." to evade war crimes tribunals.

    May 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    Nice chatting with you RUFFNUTT! he he...i'm gonna take-off now. I smell troll.

    May 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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