American Legion Post 128 in Stanardsville held its seventh annual Walk of Honor ceremony on Monday, May 27, in remembrance of Memorial Day.
“Today is a day to fly an American Flag either in memory of or in honor of our nation’s military service members,” said post Chaplain Doug Fargo.
U.S. House of Representative Denver Riggleman, 5th District, offered why he believes Memorial Day is for remembering fallen heroes but also about joy.
“I want to tell you why we need to be thankful, have gratitude but I think it’s a joyful Memorial Day,” said Riggleman, who served in the U.S. Air Force. “I’m joyful I had people who went before me and I can have a free life. I’m joyful that my family lives in a free country. I’m joyful that a kid who was the oldest of eight on food stamps could run for Congress.”
Riggleman told the nearly 100 people gathered for the ceremony about a time while in Romania as a second lieutenant he and his men had 40 guns drawn on them as they walked to a horse drawn ambulance in 1999 to see if the one screaming inside was one of their troops.
“Right then commences an intense negotiation for our lives,” he said. “If you’re ever had guns pointed at you I can say a couple things and to all the veterans here and all the people who love veterans: you’re not thinking about the constitution; you’re not thinking about being an American; you’re not thinking about the greater ideals that made this country free—you’re thinking about what’s going to happen to me and my buddies and how do I save their lives and how can they save me. I think this is why Memorial Day is so important. Memorial Day is about your buddy. It’s about your brothers and sisters in arms—everyone—the people we saved and the people who lived, as well.”
Riggleman said he has been asked to speak at numerous places in the past six months on the job, but being in Stanardsville was important to him.
“The fact that you would invite me here today is the most humbling thing,” he said.
Fargo read the names of the 24 deceased veterans who were honored with a flag along Route 230 outside the post, saluting each one—including that of his son Adam Fargo who was killed in action in 2006. There were also flags flying for two surviving veterans—Bob Grassi who served in Vietnam and Haywood Lawn who served in World War II.
Abigail Powers, a recent graduate from Madison County High School, sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.”
Virginia Sen. Emmett Hanger, who is running for re-election for the 24th District, was also in the audience.
“Attended last year and I found it to be one of the best I’ve been too. It really is moving. It’s inspirational for the day,” he said.
Piper Doeppe, who is running for Greene County Clerk of Court, was overwhelmed during the ceremony.
“Both my parents were in the military, my mom was an Army nurse and my dad did two tours of Vietnam in the Navy. Memorial Day is important to my family,” she said. “At its essence it’s all about the recognition of service. My freedoms are from other people’s losses and I appreciate it. It’s all I can do to not tear up.”
Greene County Sheriff Steve Smith, running for re-election this November, said he felt it was important to be there Monday morning.
“It’s important to honor our military servicemen who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Matt Hardin, Greene County Commonwealth Attorney running for reelection in November, said we owe a debt to our military service personnel.
“Greene County has lost so many veterans in service to our nation and it’s important that we honor their sacrifices. Just as important, we lost four members of our local legion post this year due to natural causes and there is now only one surviving World War II vet living in Greene County. We cannot forget the service of all these veterans who are no longer with us, but to whom we will always be indebted,” he said.
James Murphy, who was injured and medically discharged after entering the U.S. Navy in 2006, said he finds Memorial Day sober and happy at the same time.
“I have lost family members and friends—a lot of friends,” said Murphy, who is running for the at-large seat on the board of supervisors. “I am happy we live in a country where we have people willing to volunteer and I’m proud that we live in a country that honors that.”
Murphy’s family has been in naval service since the Revolutionary War, he said.
Fargo noted people put flags on 370 veterans’ graves in 60 cemeteries around the county—which is about 96 percent of the total veterans graves. Some were on private property so they were unable to place flags there without landowners’ permission. He also noted Greene County Sheriff Capt. David Roach personally went to more than 20 locations and placed more than 40 flags.
Fargo said people with cemeteries on their properties should contact the legion directly so they may place flags there next year.