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NEWS | June 2, 2021

Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony honors, remembers fallen warriors

By Mr. Cotton Puryear JFHQ Public Affairs

The 2021 Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony held May 31, 2021, at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia, honored and remembered the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price in nation’s defense. Virginia Air National Guard Master Sgt. Damon L. Obasi led the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem during the ceremony, and retired Col. Mike Harris joined Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs placing a wreath at the Virginia War Memorial’s Shrine of Memory for the Global War on Terrorism and Beyond.

“We are here today to pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Maxwell, Private First Class Harris, along with all the other mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, all of the heroes who have died defending our country, our way of life and the freedoms we live every day,” Jabs said. “It is a privilege to serve and to give back to our country, and yet that service entails risk and requires a willingness to sacrifice. Then men and women whose names are etched on the walls in these sacred Shrines of Memory answered the nations’s call. They wanted to protect the country which has given them, and all of us, so much.”

The names of Army Staff Sgt. Ben Maxwell and Army Pfc. Richard J. Harris were added to the memorial paying tribute to the nearly 12,000 Virginias honored at the War Memorial along with Marine Staff Sgt. Donald C. May, Jr. and Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan. Maxwell was killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Harris was killed in action in Korea, May and Khan were killed in action in Iraq. Pfc. Harris was retired Col. Harris’ cousin.

The Virginia National Guard has lost 10 Soldiers to hostile enemy action while on federal active duty in service to their country since Sept. 11, 2001, and they are among the more than 175 Virginians whose names are etched onto the 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.

“The past year has seen us overcome tremendous challenges, and I think we can all use Memorial Day to reaffirm our commitment to selfless service and pay tribute to the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who gave their lives in service to our country,” wrote Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, in his Memorial Day message. “They portray the values and ideals on which this country was founded, and they are a source of tremendous inspiration.”

Williams also acknowledged that just a few days after Memorial Day, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford will mark its 20th year of operations on the 77th anniversary of D-Day. More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, but their courage and bravery helped create a foothold that allowed follow on forces to continue the assault and set the stage for Allied victory in Europe.

Read more about the Virginia National Guard’s fallen warriors remembered at the Virginia War Memorial at

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