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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid