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Virginia veterans honored at annual Memorial Day service

Virginia veterans honored at annual Memorial Day service
Posted at 6:24 PM, May 30, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of people attended the annual Memorial Day service at the Virginia War Memorial and paid tribute to those who gave their lives in service of the United States military.

"Memorial Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation," said Army Maj. Gen. Mark Simerly, Commanding General for the Combined Arms Support Command Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee.

This year's keynote speaker was Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Marine Corps veteran. She paid tribute not only to the fallen but to the family members they left behind.

"You heard that dreaded knock, you saw those men and women fully dressed, beautifully dressed, at your door informing you in somber tones that your life was changed forever," said Earle-Sears.

Typically during the ceremony, they recognize fallen Virginians whose names were added to the Shrine of Memory in the past year.

However, as Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle pointed out, there had fortunately been none -- so, instead, they honored two Virginians, one from WWII and the other from the Korean War, whose remains were discovered, identified, and interred in the U.S. -- Army Air Forces Private First Class Edward H. Benson and Army Corporal Roy H. Thomas of St. Charles.

Following the service, several wreaths were laid at the base of the shrine.

Among those who attended Monday's service was former Navy Commander Paul Galanti, who served in Vietnam and spent over six years as a prisoner of war. The memorial's education center is named after Galanti and his wife, Phyllis.

Galanti said while he reflects on how lucky he was to make it back alive, he remembers those who were not -- including the first name he heard in a radio broadcast on his first day as a POW.

"The first name was my roommate from high school, who went to military school," said Galanti. "John Shaw Sabine, IV. It's not -- it's a name you don't forget."

Bruce Steeley, a Marine Corps veteran who also served in Vietnam, said a former schoolmate was someone he remembered as well.

"Every time I come out here I always look him up and remember the sacrifice that he made," said Steely. "Those of us who served, Memorial Day is probably one of the most important days of the year."

While Charles Talley, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, added what it was important for everyone to remember on this day.

"If you can't stop and pause on Memorial Day and Veterans' Day to give thanks to those that gave their lives or who served our great nation of ours, you need to stop and think what you would have without those people," said Talley.

CBS 6 carried a broadcast of the service, which can be viewed here.

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