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. Joe Moore

    If you dont like the American military go live some where else like Venezuala or N. Korea.

    May 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    Tomorrow, I will honor my son, Eric, who passed at age 17. I will honor my nephew, Tony, who was murdered at 20. I will honor my father, FJK, who passed before my son, thankfully, but before my daughter Jae was born. He would be proud. – honor my father-in-law, Norm. I honor my grandparents, my friends who have passed unexpectedly, I honor all who have touched me personally, and who I have lost.

    And, I honor the soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for serving our country.

    May you all rest in peace.

    "Happy" Memorial Day.

    May 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy

      This weekend I'm honoring my dead. I am not asking the government any questions, I am not discussing theories, I am honoring the dead. I am asking you to respect MY wishes, and leave me in peace to do just that. Thank you.

      May 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • rplat

      Pay no attention to the words of "albatross", he's a cruel, stupid, subhuman slug.

      May 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clayton

      Go troll somewhere else albatross

      May 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      God bless you Banasy, I just finished watching the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS. I watch it every year. I served with those men during that war. I will be forever grateful for their service and sacrifice. My Memorial Day weekend will continue tomorrow as I proudly display my American Flag!

      May 29, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      I want to say Thank You! I know I could not have said it any better. Bless you.

      May 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • USA#1

      On this Memorial Day, I'd like to thank all our Troops for the sacrifices they make every day. I'd also like to honor those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice – you are not forgotten. Thank you!!
      Sgt. Major Phillip Robert Albert, 41, was killed along with four U.S. airmen when their MH-53M Pave Low helicopter accidentally crashed shortly after take off from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on November 23, 2003. Having proudly served his country for 20 years, he was 3 months shy of retirement when he died. We love you and will never forget you Phillip.

      May 30, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. albatross

    blind patriotism kills innocent people, use your brains and sense of humanity...look at WTC 7 and you'll know we have been conned into wars for the benefit of few corporations.

    May 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • lloyd roberts

      Not today Albatross. The only reason you can post like you do is because of veterans of the United States Armed Forces who have consistently for over two hundred years protected our homeland and preserved our way of life from foreign invaders. There are always mysteries and secrets to why wars are fought in a particular way or who becomes allied with whom. That's for historians. US veterans have no equal to anyone on earht and combat veterans should be honored for they are truly giants among us

      May 29, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Albatross, thank all those who have given their lives to preserve our freedom so that we may salute the American Flag of red, white and blue, rather than a flag displaying a swastika.

      May 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • hebgb

      The incredibly ironic thing about all of this on Memorial Day, albatross, is that there are real men whose water you wouldn't be fit to carry that will stand in the face of danger and even give thier lives and futures for someone as idiotic as you to utter your ideas and feelings. It would seem to me that at least on this day, you even should be able to conjure up some sort of feelings of thankfulness for that priveledge and save your hate for another day. Don't worry Sparky, those men will be out there tomorrow and the next day and the next regardless if you want to hide in the corner and shake like a wet puppy almost pi&&ing himself at the thought of doing something for your country.

      May 30, 2011 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      @ hebgb, thank you, my thoughts exactly

      May 30, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. Miss Anthrope

    This weekend is not the time to be talking about all the conspiracy theory stuff or GWB’s retarded brother! You don’t think the people who have lost loved ones on 9/11 read these? Show some respect for once in your lives! I know it’s hard, when you’re trying to convince people to YOUR POV, but it would be really, really nice to read about the 9/11 memorial without the conspiracy theorists making the survivors feel even worse, thinking their government caused the whole thing in the first place! Have a little respect for once in your lives!!!!!!

    May 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nia Anton

    God bless America, the land of the free and freedom fighters!

    May 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      The land of the war makers who think that they have to police the world. No one want you or your wars.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Geneo

    My country tis of thee,
    Sweet land of liberty,
    Of thee I sing.
    Land where my fathers died!
    Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
    From every mountain side,
    Let freedom ring!

    May 30, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. m.s.mohamed ansari

    Only peace and prayer
    I am also happy kill osma bin laden
    Turing point of global economy. Islam not allowed Terries Terries people not for Muslim

    1. Please avoid war. Day by day war cost increase $ 3.5 trillion
    2. Global economy in crisis
    3. International job less
    4. Global financial crisis
    5. Financial crisis for every manufacture
    6. World poverty problem
    7. Each every single man effected
    8. Ignore future death million of already death
    9. million Of people wounded
    10. Global environment climate will be change this will lead global agriculture problem


    Mr.M.S.Mohamed Ansari,
    154, Angappa Naicken Street,
    Chennai – 600 001.
    Tamil Nadu, India.


    The Hon’ble Chief Justice,
    The Supreme Court,
    United States of America,
    Washington, D.C.
    Fax no: 213.547.8080


    Sub: Prosecution of previous President Mr. George W.Bush, for violation of International Code of Conduct.
    Mr. George W.Bush, the previous President of United States of America, initiated a war against IRAQ, without obtaining the previous sanction of United Nations Organization (UNO) on the pretext of having nuclear weapons, even though the then IRAQ government openly exhibited to the whole world that it has no nuclear weapons.
    According to the CNN WORLD report, in the war 6, 75,000 civilians killed, 7500 troops of USA and its allied forces killed 3 25 000 people wounded and $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar spent for the war. This spending of $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar is the main cause of action for the present economic crises prevailing all over the world.
    After winning the war against IRAQ, the United States of America’s President Mr. George W.Bush, also admitted the same fact, and he openly stated that the Intelligence agency misguided him.
    Later on, even the United Nations Organization (UNO) also certified that the IRAQ has no nuclear weapons.
    Then it is the bounded duty of the United States of America and its allied forces to withdraw from IRAQ.
    But instead of withdrawing from IRAQ, the United States of America and its allied forces formed a government in IRAQ, under their control and administered the entire IRAQ, and its peoples.
    This indicates a clear violation of duty by the President of United States of America Mr. George W.Bush and also a clear case of violation of the International Code of Conduct for UNO members.
    Thus Mr. George W.Bush attracts prosecution for the above said offence.
    Thus I hereby pray this Hon’ble Court initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. George W. Bush, and give him maximum punishment for
    a) Initiating the war against the IRAQ
    b) Killing its innocent IRAQI peoples
    c) Killing troops of USA and allied forces and
    d) The present economic crises.
    e) 3 25 000 people wounded
    Dated on this day of 13th day of April, 2009.

    Yours truly,



    The Chief Justice, the International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands.
    The Secretary General, United Nations Organization
    The Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, IRAQ.
    His Excellency Mr.Barack Obama, the President of United States of America, White House, Washington D.C.

    May 30, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Ha. Classic!! How did that work out for you?

      May 30, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Avaddon

    don't forget, westboro church is coming to Arlington cemetery, please everyone show your support of the military by showing up and supporting the families.

    i will be joining the USMC in november of 2012 and i cannot wait, I will be serving my country and defending my loved ones. I cannot ask for a greater honor. i salute all who have died in combat, My religious views say that they will be rewarded in glorious ways In valhalla. And i hope to join them soon. victory or valholl!

    May 30, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Apeman

    Lets honor our heroes cause day after tomorrow we couldn't care less. A medic in Bananastan can save life and transport severely injured soldiers of all kinds, but when he comes home, he is not qualified to take granny to the hosiptal after a fall. A nation of clowns

    May 30, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. hebgb

    What do you think- anyone want to place a wager that we will not see OBungler at The Tomb of the Unknows or Arlington Cemetary showing at least a small amount of respect for those who have given their lives so he can pretend to be a king?

    May 30, 2011 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. marwa

    While i symapthize with any one whose dead in war and i respect every familly who lost someone......it was not their duty to go to Iraq.....the States have killed thousands of thousands of Iraqis over and they have taken advantage of their oil and they have extorted Gulf nations for their obedience and silence and these 'kids' ppl weep them in news when they fall correspond to multiple numbers of Iraqis fallen too ...but hey have been paid salaries....and pensions and honored whilst the Iraqis are rarely mentioned in the news and they just fall out of memory thats not to count Afgans, Palestinians, and counting.....its the foreign policy of war where Americans build their nations by killing ppl and taking their wealth and when they are done they find somewhere else to make a president shine more or to cover this budget deficit God knows how to cover ................my imagination just cannot keep thinking how many ppl do they need kill and rob to make USA survive the future deficits......

    May 30, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. 2faced

    It great to have so much sentiment and all, but your country is being socially violated and contaminated, its people are being "degraded and devalued"....by the very folks our forefathers fought against. Their blood and their sweat and their tears...does not equal to your mournful tears of today. It really concerns me that people think that if they have "feeeeeelllllllings" about something, that it is suppose to replace essential action of a warranted cause. "Tearing" for a moment or two and wiping ones eyes, means nothing, if your daily life or the other 364 days are spent in ignorance of this country's inevitable demise and your personal decisions are built on selfish, self-serving goals. When was the last time you helped someone, or bought a kids a pair of shoes, or stood up for a "cause" as your forefathers have and died for. Sniff, sniff, tear, tear...sniff is all a big joke, disgrace and a dishonor to the graves of the very souls that died for you to be there...so, after you finish that last tear for your audience to see, you might as well spit on their grave while you are there, because you are only crying about your own "selfish" cause! Yes – I said it – it had to be said! Good Day and God Bless the Unitied States of America – regardless!

    May 30, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Robert Longley

    Under The Flag

    The draping, it is perfect
    No wrinkles will you see
    A symbol of a nation
    A reminder that we’re free

    Most prefer it flying
    Free to wave and blow
    Not sitting on a mantel
    Without the stripes to show

    This is the end of service
    For it and one you love
    A subtle juxtaposition
    Of which is up above

    For each flag sitting folded
    For all the world to see
    A soldier’s spirit is soaring
    Oer a nation that is free

    May 30, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. mharris

    I miss you Dad!

    May 30, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. HelenHull102951

    To all that still live, fight on my brothers in arms. But for those who have fought and died for all, you'll always be alive in our hearts and minds rip in peace my brothers at arms. *Wayne Hull 2nd Ranger Bn./ 82nd Airborne-Veit Nam*

    May 30, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
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