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Arlington celebrates Memorial Day | SLIDESHOW
ARLINGTON — Hundreds of Arlington residents lined the sides of both Olympic Avenue and the Arlington Municipal Cemetery pathways as they celebrated Memorial Day on Monday, May 27, and remembered the lives of those who died fighting for our country’s freedom.
The annual celebration began at 10 a.m. on Olympic Avenue with the parade, which included appearances by the local chapters of American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Naval and Air Force Junior ROTC, Arlington High School’s marching band and World War II veterans.
Following the parade, participants and observers made their way to the Arlington Municipal Cemetery, where earlier in the day volunteers had placed 600 American flags along each walkway, representing the lives of soldiers buried there.
The Arlington High School band marched before the American Legion Honor Guard, who presented the colors, as Boy Scouts raised the American flag to half-staff, and a firing squad saluted the dead.
“This day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” said American Legion Post 76 Cmdr. Christian Raboin, who led the ceremony. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our country.”
Raboin introduced retired Air Force Maj. Mike Blue, an Arlington resident and instructor of AFJROTC at AHS.
“Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of mourning, a sacred day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, the parade routes often ending at a local cemetery where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers offered up. People took the time to clean and decorate — with flowers and flags — the graves of those who fell in service to their country,” said Blue, gesturing to his surroundings. “The city of Arlington — and you, its citizens — have today lined up to this honored tradition.”
Blue spoke of the sacrifices made not only by those who fought and lost their lives in service to this country, but also to those who are missing.
“We must remember a special group of veterans,” he said. “Americans still missing and unaccounted for from Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War and World War II. We honor them today.”
Blue described his active duty service as a member of a crew flying over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.
“I can still feel the chill down my back as I did when I first heard these few frantic words coming over a radio from a group of soldiers on the ground, ‘We’re taking fire! We’re taking fire!’ I will never forget that feeling. I know some of you can feel those words right now,” he said. “Not all of the soldiers made it.”
“As we stand together today on this 131st anniversary of Memorial Day, we are reminded that the cost of freedom comes with a high price in human terms,” said Blue. “America will only be the land of the free as long as it is still the home of the brave. And no matter their fate, America will always be their home — and a home worth dying for.”
Blue prompted a moment of silence for the fallen, and following his speech the AHS band played “America the Beautiful.”
“More than one million American service members have died in the wars and conflicts this nation fought since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775 to fight for independence,” said Blue. “Each person who died during those conflicts was a loved one cherished by family and friends. Each was a loss to the community where they lived and our nation as a whole.”
Raboin concluded the ceremony by thanking the Boy Scouts of Troop 191, VFW Post 1561, Maj. Mike Blue, the AHS band and everyone in attendance.
“God bless our fallen heroes. God bless all of you,” he said. “And God bless the United States of America.”