News / USA

    Family Members, Volunteers Remember Fallen Heroes at Arlington Cemetery

    Ilka Halliday places a Christmas wreath at the grave of her son, Christopher Wilson, at Arlington National Cemetery
    Ilka Halliday places a Christmas wreath at the grave of her son, Christopher Wilson, at Arlington National Cemetery

    Multimedia

    David Byrd

    The holiday season is a time when many families gather together.  But the families of many U.S. military personnel are often separated, and for some, that separation is permanent.  Several thousand volunteers recently gathered at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington to support and remember those who paid the ultimate price.

    Ilka Halliday takes special care to make sure the Christmas wreath she places at the grave of her son, Christopher Wilson, is just right.  Wilson died in a rocket attack in Afghanistan three years ago. He is just one of the service members being remembered at Arlington Cemetery as part of a nationwide project called 'Wreaths Across America.'

    Thousands of volunteers turned out to decorate some of the graves at Arlington with wreaths trucked from Maine for the ceremony.

    Morrill Worcester, who owns a wreath company in Maine, started the project in 1992. "It's great to be with several thousand of my closest friends. Here we are visiting the families of 300 and some odd thousand," said Worcester.  "It's just a great day.  I can't believe that the first time I was here 19 years ago there were probably a dozen people and now look here."

    The donated and sponsored wreaths include one where Ilka Halliday's son is buried among other U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Army Chaplain Lt. Colonel. Ken Godfrey says that families feel the loss more deeply at this time of year.

    "Obviously that brings up a lot of personal emotions and every family deals with that differently," said Godfrey.  "Probably a place where emotion is concentrated the most is in section 60 because so many of our current active duty combat death soldiers and military members are buried over there."

    Brian Merry is an Army aviation mechanic who has returned from Iraq.  He placed one of the wreaths on the grave of his friend Benjamin Sabban.

    "He was an Army medic and stationed at a small fire base and ran into a tough time, a vehicle-borne IED.  I was actually in another part of Iraq at the time when it happened and I caught the news a little late," recalled Merry.  "And it was just a little tough to comprehend that he was gone."

    Paula Davis lost her only son, Justin, in Afghanistan in 2006.  She says seeing so many volunteers helps her to cope with the pain.

    "The holidays are always difficult and it helps that people have come out, even in the midst of their - you know people out doing their Christmas thing - that they haven't forgotten our loved ones who aren't here for Christmas," said Davis.

    She is friends with other women who have lost a family member. They're called Gold Star Mothers.  Ilka Halliday says they help her to cope.

    "It's like we've never existed without each other," said Halliday.  "We are just that close.  You know we can be ourselves.  We don't have to worry about what other people think.  If we want to scream, we scream; if we want to hug, we hug. You know it's great. It's absolutely great."

    By the end of the day, 24,000 wreaths are placed on headstones at Arlington.  Morrill Worcester says he wants to expand the gesture to include the entire cemetery next year.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora