A crowd returned to Leesburg’s courthouse square Monday morning to participate in the annual Memorial Day Observance, another sign of a return to normalcy following more than a year of pandemic limitations on public gatherings.
The keynote speaker for this year’s program was Col. Phil Rusciolelli. The longtime member and past commander of VFW Post 1177 took the podium after many years helping to organize the annual event.
In his remarks, Rusciolelli reflected on the patriotism and generosity of the Loudoun community, the roots of Memorial Day, and the importance of the service of the men and women serving in the military.
“Today on these patriotic grounds we continue the legacy of remembering,” he said.
He recalled the decision of he and his wife, Barbara, to settle in Leesburg 21 years ago following retirement from 32 years of service in the U.S. Army to be close to their daughters and growing roster of grandchildren.
“Loudoun County and this town have a culture of service. It has never been more obvious than this past year during the pandemic when so many needed and so many people and organizations in Leesburg and Loudoun County were here with hands outstretched to support them,” he said, highlighting the work of thousands of volunteers and organizations, such as Loudoun Hunger Relief and the Ampersand Pantry Project, that made sure the needs of community members were met.
He cited the legacy of Gen. George C. Marshall, whose home, Dodona Manor, is just a few blocks from the courthouse grounds, as one that can provide inspiration to all citizens in both military and civic service. “Maybe, just maybe, it is such a local magnificent example of service that helps lead so many of our citizens to answer the basic volunteer challenges to serve their fellow citizens and volunteer to support such diverse needs of hunger relief, social and medical, and even fire, rescue and police services.”
Rusciolelli recalled that his ties to military service began long before he was drafted during the Vietnam War.
“You might say I am a living memorial to a family hero,” he said. He was named for his uncle who was a Marine killed in the late days of World War II. “It will forever be an honor to be my Uncle Phil’s namesake.”
“In many respects we are all living memorials to the brave men and women who have gone before us and who have guaranteed the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation,” he said.
Rusciolelli also highlighted the tremendous responsibilities held by today’s volunteer military—including the safety of their personnel, operation of millions of dollars in sophisticated equipment, and protecting our freedoms with activities around the globe—troops who are “out there serving in so many ways that we cannot imagine.”
“Today we thank God for the military men and women who have served and are serving to protect our great nation,” he said.
The ceremony, led by VFW Post 1177 Commander Ray Delpesche, included remarks from Mayor Kelly Burk, an invocation from the Rev. George Mink, the singing of the National Anthem by Taneesha Mishra, the playing of “Taps” by Josh Taylor and “Amazing Grace” by Tim Kirkpatrick, and the laying of wreaths on the war memorials.