Hundreds gathered in the courthouse square in Leesburg on Monday morning to participated in the annual Memorial Day observance.
The crowd included two World War II veterans—Norman Duncan, who served as a supply sergeant during the Normandy landings and Earl Smith who taught fighter pilots at Luke Field in Arizona. Missing from the ceremony this year was Stanley Caulkins, the World War II airman and longtime Leesburg businessman and civic leader who died Jan. 12 at age 92. Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) read a House of Delegates resolution commending Caulkins’ military and community service.
Dennis Boykin provided the keynote remarks. His military career began in 1973 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was commissioned as an Army officer after completing college. He earned a Bronze Star for actions in Desert Storm and held command positions in Germany before retiring as a major at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, in 2000.
Boykin’s speech touched on the history and significance of Memorial Day, the sacrifices of service men and woman and their families and the work done by the Leesburg VFW 1177 post to support them.
He recalled one effort to help Marine Corps veteran’s widow who was living in Ashburn and working as a dental hygienists in Alexandria while supporting two children.
“She was two months behind in her rent because her office shut down for six weeks. Our post, in conjunction with the Loudoun County veteran service coordinator and other organizations, arranged to bring her rent current, while we canvassed every dentist in Leesburg and suggested that they should consider her for employment,” Boykin said. “She got three interviews, two offers, and is now driving from Ashburn to Leesburg for work.”
He also recalled the post’s role in supporting the family of Army Spc. Stephan Mace, the Purcellville resident killed at the battle of Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan in 2009. VFW members joined the escort as Mace’s remains were transported from Leesburg Executive Airport to the funeral home in Purcellville, past thousands of residents saluting his service.
“Mistakes made by Army leaders cost dearly, and I saw that clearly as his mother, Vanessa Adelson, kept her hand on the casket from airplane to hearse, and then traveled home on streets lined by what seemed like every person in Loudoun County,” Boykin said.
He urged the audience to reflect on the human rights advances that have been accomplished in the 242 years since the nation’s founding, saying they would not be possible in a dictatorship but were possible only in a free country dedicated to the premise that all men are created equal.
“Go forth today and take this nation forward, in honor of their memories, and continue to make it a better place, for all of us. Don’t accept injustice; fight for what’s right. Don’t accept hatred; argue against it. Honor the memories of those who gave their lives by joining them in defending this great nation,” Boykin said. [Read full remarks here.]
The ceremony concluded with the laying of memorial wreaths at the monuments honoring Loudoun residents who died in combat during the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.