Fallen servicemen and women honored in dedication of Veterans' Plaza
Dozens gather to honor those who served
Nicole Bunting helped place a wreath of red, white and blue flowers to honor those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in front of the American flag.
A moment later, Bunting turned, locking eyes on a fair-haired child bouncing contentedly in a man's lap. A broad smile immediately stretched across her face as she walked toward her 12-month-old son, scooping him up into an embrace.
Not a single one of the dozens of people gathered existed in this moment. Just this child. Just Cooper.
Bunting learned she was pregnant with Cooper four days after her husband, Capt. Brian Bunting, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Feb. 24, 2009.
"It's really a miracle and the greatest gift I could possibly be given," Bunting, of Darnestown, said of her youngest son. She also has a 3-year-old son who was not present. "He's my little gift baby."
Bunting joined veterans, public officials, families and residents Thursday to share in a moving dedication of Veterans' Plaza in downtown Silver Spring.
The ceremony began with the posting of the colors as members of the Native American community drummed and sang. After the dozens of attendees stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), a Vietnam veteran, and Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) formally dedicated the plaza.
"We are officially dedicating this space as Veterans' Plaza in recognition of all those who have served in defense of this country," Ervin said.
She spoke of the spaces at holiday tables that will be left empty by those serving the nation. The Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 50,000 veterans live in Montgomery County.
"We want to lift up the names of all those who are serving still in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said.
Following the dedication, Lee Ann Doerflinger of Silver Spring gave a speech through tears about her son, Army Spc. Thomas K. Doerflinger, who was killed in action in Iraq on Veterans Day in 2004. She said that though it's difficult to be a Gold Star Family relatives of someone killed in service she is proud that her son made an enormous sacrifice for the greater good.
"It can be extremely painful," Doerflinger said. "Sometimes we must do the difficult thing and reach beyond ourselves."
Bill Gray, chair of the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs, offered the final words at the ceremony, moving emotionally through his closing remarks and occasionally choking up.
"We have gathered here today to honor and reflect on the great men and women who have served our country through the years," Gray said. "A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check to the United States."
Now that the dedication is complete, those walking through downtown Silver Spring can enjoy the plaza and reflect on the significance of its name.
"It's really nice, because there are so many people who forget our veterans in Montgomery County, especially since it doesn't have the highest rate of service," Bunting said. "It's nice to have somebody passing by to stop and remember."