- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

Becky Boyd couldn’t keep the tears from coming yesterday as she watched hundreds of military veterans march by her during the second annual National Memorial Day Parade.

“I just love my country,” said Miss Boyd, 40, who came to the parade with her boyfriend, James Murray, a disabled former Army Ranger. “We’re lucky to be free because of all these people.”

The couple, who came from Erie, Pa., to Washington for Memorial Day weekend, were among the thousands that lined Constitution Avenue for the noon event, which featured more than 3,000 participants.

The parade began with a military flyover and the Pledge of Allegiance led by six Medal of Honor recipients. It ended with more than 600 military personnel who had returned recently from the war on terror marching from Constitution Avenue to 15th Street Northwest to Pennsylvania Avenue.

In between, high school bands from across the country, active-duty personnel and hundreds of veterans — including Lloyd Brown, a 106-year-old World War I veteran — passed by to the applause of the onlookers, who waved miniature American flags to show their patriotic support.

Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise served as the grand marshal of the event, which was held on a particularly warm pre-summer day.

“It’s important to recognize the troops,” said Rick Pullen, 43, of Alexandria. “Whether you support the war or not, you’ve still got to support the military.”

Demisha White, 9, and Paige Harrington, 7, sat under an umbrella before the parade and waited for their Girl Scout troop’s time to march.

“We have to walk in the parade and wave our hands like this,” said Demisha, performing a classic Miss America-type wave. “It’s important because we’re representing our Girl Scout troop leader.”

“And people that fight and die for our country,” chimed in Paige.

Mary Porteus, who mouthed the words to “God Bless America” during a pre-parade performance, said she and her family came to the parade to honor all the veterans.

“I’m a veteran, my husband’s a veteran, my daughter’s in the Navy,” said Mrs. Porteus, in her 50s, of Laurel. “You’ve got to come to the nation’s capital on a day like today.”

Communities throughout the region honored veterans with Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday.

A crowd of about 1,000 gathered in the morning for a ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, Md. Meredith Bower, a spokeswoman for the gardens, has attended Memorial Day ceremonies there for 15 years.

“In all those years, we’ve had all kinds of weather,” she said. “But for these people, the hot weather is not a deterrent, especially for the elderly [veterans]. This ceremony is so important to them.”

Part of the ceremony was set aside to honor Sgt. Brian R. Conner, a member of the 243rd Engineer Company of the Maryland Army National Guard, who was killed in Iraq last October. He is the only fallen soldier from Iraq buried at the memorial gardens.

Mrs. Bower said that 18 soldiers from Maryland have been killed since last year’s Memorial Day service. Seven of the families were present at yesterday’s ceremony.

“The true meaning about Memorial Day is not about a carpet sale, it is about those who gave their lives for our freedom,” she said.

In Rockville, the 62nd annual Memorial Day Parade, themed “Continuing to Serve,” drew one of its biggest crowds ever. Mayor Larry Giammo and Rockville City Council members threw candy to the crowd lining the street.

In a ceremony before the parade, Mr. Giammo noted that the nation should be thankful for the veterans who return to contribute to their communities after serving in the military.

Meanwhile, the city of Falls Church held its 25th annual parade and a veterans’ ceremony.

“It was definitely very well-attended,” said Nicole Gobbo, a spokeswoman for the city, who estimated about 10,000 attended the parade.

Some communities have decided to hold their Memorial Day ceremonies today.

The city of Gaithersburg will hold an observance today at Christman Park. It will include a wreath-laying ceremony and cards for people to write thank-you notes to veterans. The notes will be collected in a book to be displayed at City Hall.

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