As they sang the National Anthem, the standing room only crowd who assembled at Moore Memorial Gardens in Arlington Monday was reminded that freedom isn’t free.
Perhaps few understand that better than Retired Army Sergeant Stephen Jackel.
“It’s pretty humbling to know that I fought for a country that does this and honors our fallen,” said Jackel.
While serving overseas in Afghanistan, he watched many of his fellow soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice. He himself was nearly killed in 2011 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The incident cost him both legs.
During the ceremony, he talked about his time in the military and why his fallen comrades should never be forgotten.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Jackel. “But at the same time, you have a sense of pride for those who made the sacrifice and their families who were left behind.”
After the ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute and a wreath laying, the family of former Marine Bryon Weiss paid a visit to his gravesite. Weiss died in March from cancer. His family says they’ve always been proud of his service and are inspired by every soldier’s willingness to lay their lives on the line.
“I can’t even explain how much respect I have for them,” said Landon Lancaster, Weiss’ son. “It’s something I can’t even imagine doing.”
That’s why they wanted to spend their Memorial Day thanking America’s fallen heroes.
“It’s just an honor and privilege for us to be free,” said Joanne Moore, whose son is married to Weiss’ daughter. “These men need every opportunity to be honored, not just today, but every day.”
Moore Memorial Gardens lined the cemetery with more than 200 American flags. They also placed a small flag on the headstone of every veteran buried there.