RICHMOND, Va. — The 64th Annual Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony honored and remembered the military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation May 25, 2020, at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins and Spc. Neil Miller, a Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, placed the memorial wreath at the Shrine of Memory, and Chaplain (Col.) Ben Sprouse, the VNG’s senior chaplain, gave the memorial prayer.
“Memorial Day is the one day each year we set aside to honor our heroes who died in defense of our country and our commonwealth,” Hopkins wrote in a column published in the Richmond Times Dispatch. “Such a day inevitably also calls for recognition of our veterans, active duty service members, guardsmen, reservists and family members. All of them have answered the call of their country to defend the freedoms we enjoy each and every day. We choose to pay tribute on Memorial Day to the many who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms that define our nation.”
Because of cautionary procedures due to COVID-19, the ceremony was closed to the public but live-streamed. VNG Soldiers lost to hostile enemy action while on federal active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, are among the 175 Virginians remembered at the new Shrine of Memory for the Global War on Terrorism and Beyond. The shrine, which opened in February 2020 as part of a new expansion to the War Memorial, sits adjacent to the original Shrine of Memory, which includes the names Virginians who died during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. In total, the two shrines honor nearly 12,000 Virginians who gave their lives for freedom.
Read more about the Virginia National Guard’s fallen warriors remembered at the Virginia War Memorial at https://go.usa.gov/xw3cv/
“Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance where we pause and honor the military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense our of ideals of liberty and justice,” wrote Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, in his Memorial Day message. “While we live in challenging times with the impacts of COVID-19, it is still important to honor our fallen comrades. We must never forget the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who gave their lives in service to our country., and we should use Memorial Day to remember their courage and reaffirm our commitment to selfless service.”
No state commemorates Memorial Day in so many ways as does Virginia, Hopkins wrote.
“From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and to today’s multifaceted global engagements, Virginians throughout history have been among the first to answer the call to put on a uniform and bear arms,” he wrote. “The COVID-19 emergency and social gathering restrictions mean that most events normally held to commemorate this day must be suspended or changed to protect the health and safety of our citizens. None of these changes mean we will not strive to honor and recognize our heroes. In our commonwealth, we understand our sacred duty not only to those who have died defending our country, but to those living who wear and have worn the cloth of our nation, as well as their families.”
Williams wrote it is also appropriate to remember the men and women who died in the line of duty on official state or federal orders under Title 32 of the United States Code whose names are on the Commonwealth Public Safety Memorial. Thirty two Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are remembered among the nearly 900 Virginia public safety officers at the memorial site at Capitol Square in Richmond.
Read more about the Public Safety Memorial at https://go.usa.gov/xmGB6
Williams acknowledged the busy pace of VNG operations for the last two months, and asked people remember there are still people on duty here in Virginia supporting COVID-19 response operations, as well as men and women on federal active duty overseas.
“We thank them as well as all the other service members on duty across the globe,” he wrote. “We will keep them in our thoughts on prayers and look forward to their safe return.”
Williams also wrote “we owe special thanks to our families and employers for their essential support to the Virginia National Guard. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish our mission.”
Carlos Hopkins column: Remembering our fallen heroes on Memorial Day 2020
Adjutant General of Virginia 2020 Memorial Day Message