Spectators packed the Damascus American Legion Post 171 lawn and watched in silence as 11 American flags were placed at the base of the post’s veterans memorial as part of its annual Memorial Day ceremony Sunday.
Each one of the flags was placed in memory of a member of the post who had died in the last year, or “transferred to post everlasting,” as Will Trotter, Montgomery County American Legion commander and Post 171 adjutant, said the group calls it.
One of the flags was for Jacob “Ken” Diggs, a post member who died about a month before the ceremony, which he used to help put together each year.
“Ken used to run [the Memorial Day] program for about 15 years,” Trotter said.
Remembering and honoring the sacrifices of thousands of members of the armed forces is the purpose of the ceremony and the holiday in general, Trotter said.
“It’s a way to say thank you from afar,” he said. “I tell young people all the time, when you have a friend, sibling, parent, neighbor, people you know who have spent time in the service, take the time to say thank you. The older guys really appreciate that because they feel like people have forgotten.”
It was a message that retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, a speaker at the ceremony, reiterated.
“As we think about the casualties here today of the Iraq and Afghanistan [conflicts], which are so real to us, it’s easy to forget the casualties of yesterday,” she said. “We never get too old to remember.”
Vaught is president of the Women in Military Service for America Foundation in Washington, D.C. The Women's Memorial is the nation’s only major memorial to pay tribute to the millions of women who have served in the military, beginning with the American Revolution.
A gun salute by Rockville American Legion Post 86, the raising of the flag performed by the Damascus-based Boy Scout Troop 1397 and a concert performed by the Browningsville Cornet Band were among the features of the event.
More than 15 civic organizations also presented flower wreaths that they placed on the post memorial, including the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department, the Damascus Lions Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution, Pleasant Plains chapter.
In addition to the Sunday ceremony, members of the Legion placed flags on the graves of more than 636 veterans buried in 20 cemeteries in the area Saturday.
“So as we remember all that has happened, we must also remember that we have been left with the charge to continue to defend freedom, justice, and democracy,” Vaught said.