MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
The Quantico National Cemetery parade deck was filled with Marines, past and present, and members of the local community for the Potomac Region Veterans Council Memorial Day Ceremony on May 26, 2014.
Memorial Day, a national holiday commemorating those who have died in service to their country, was originally called Decoration Day and was proclaimed by Gen. John Logan on May 30, 1868. It is now commemorated on the last Monday in May.
The ceremony included a presentation of the National Colors, Massing and Parade of Veterans Organizational Colors, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, a toast to the flag, invocations, music from the Quantico Marine Corps Band and Master Singers of Virginia, a key note speaker, and a wreath laying presentation with military honors.
Col. David W. Maxwell, Marine Corps Base Quantico base commander, was the speaker for the event.
He introduced the crowd to the band of brotherhood that is shared by all military members.
“For those who have worn the uniform, we remain a Band of Brothers like no other. It is a brotherhood that extends to our wives and children and grandchildren.
“And so we gather today, with others around the country, as we stand up to honor our dead in places like Quantico National Cemetery.”
This sentiment was not only shared by the Marines in the audience, but also retired service members like Sam Tate, assistant scout master Troop 1569 out of Lake Ridge and a retired U.S. Navy captain, and his young troops. His troop has supported this ceremony for at least the last 15 years.
“Service to country, it’s a Boy Scout principal,” Tate explained why he brings his Scouts to help with the ceremony. “We always have at least one scout as part of the honor guard.”
Rolling Thunder was also a presence to behold at the cemetery. They provided free bottled water to anyone in attendance and those who were part of the ceremony.
“I joined the group to say ‘thank you’ to all the guys and gals in uniform who allowed me to live my life free,” said Karl Axline, a member of Rolling Thunder. Axline is one of the few members who never served in the military, though he was drafted into the Korean Conflict, but was found medically unqualified. “It’s just doing whatever you can to say ‘thank you.’”
In preparation for the ceremony Next-of-Kin flags were flown on the Avenue of Honor which lines the road to the parade deck. Each flag pole is dedicated to a veteran, living or deceased, or multiple veterans. The Avenue of Honor is sponsored by the Potomac Region Veterans Council, which is looking to expand it to 1,000 flag poles from the main gate of the cemetery through each section as they open.
Maxwell concluded his address with a quote from Gen. Robert E. Lee, “Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”