Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony honors Virginia’s fallen

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Smith, Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, place a wreath honoring fallen Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen at the Eternal Flame in the Shrine of Memory at the Virginia War Memorial May 27, 2019, during the Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony in Richmond, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginians from all branches of the Armed Forces who gave their lives in service to their country were remembered at the Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial May 27, 2019, in Richmond. Virginia. Ten Virginia National Guard Soldiers have been killed by hostile enemy action since Sept. 11, 2001, and they are among the 11,479 Virginians killed during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror and recognized at the memorial.

“We are gathered here to honor and remember the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “In every one of our nation’s wars, Virginians have been among the first to answer the call. Freedom is never free, and on Memorial Day, we are all reminded of the human cost to protect our freedoms.”

Northam and Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, a colonel in the Virginia National Guard, placed the Commonwealth of Virginia wreath at the Eternal Flame in the Shrine of Memory to pay tribute to all fallen Virginians. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Smith, Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, placed a wreath honoring the Virginia National Guard’s fallen Soldiers and Airmen.

“We have a sincere obligation to remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Hopkins said. “It is especially fitting that we take this time today, that we pause for a moment to reflect on their sacrifice, to reflect on their service, to remember their families and loved ones they left behind but never to forget their memory.”

Northam and Hopkins both commended those who currently serve in the armed forces for honoring the memory of the fallen and continuing to defend our country.

Members of the Virginia Defense Force volunteer their time to assist with traffic flow and parking for the ceremony. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

“It is important that we never forget the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who gave their lives in service to our country,” Williams wrote in his Memorial Day message. “We should remember their courage, and also use this time to reaffirm our commitment to selfless service. The legacy of excellence embodied by those we remember on Memorial Day should motivate us all.”

Members of the Virginia Defense Force volunteered their time to assist with traffic flow and parking for the ceremony.

“Memorial Day this year has an even more meaningful context as we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” Williams wrote. “On June 6 we will honor the service and sacrifice of Virginia National Guard Soldiers as well as other branches of the service at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford and at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry 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.”

Thirty-two Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are remembered among the nearly 900 Virginia public safety officers who died in the line of duty at the dedication of the Commonwealth Public Safety Memorial at the memorial site at Capitol Square in Richmond, Virignia.

The following Virginia Guard Soldiers were lost to hostile enemy action since September 11, 2001:

Virginia National Guard Soldiers killed in action by hostile enemy fire during the Global War on Terror are remembered along with 299 fellow Virginians on the Wall of Honor at the Virginia War Memorial.

Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, 39, of Winchester, Virginia., and Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, 36, of Inwood, West Virginia, died on Aug. 7, 2004, in Ghazikel, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Both Soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division, Winchester, Virginia.

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Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason, 20, of King George, Virginia, and Sgt. David A. Ruhren, 20, of Stafford, Virginia, died Dec. 21, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq, when their dining facility was attacked. Both were assigned to the Army National Guard’s 276th Engineer Battalion, West Point, Virginia.

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Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia, and Sgt. 1st Class Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Virginia, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 20, 2007, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed. Kelly was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone, Virginia, and Booker was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard, Sandston, Virginia.

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Sgt. David E. Lambert, 39, of Cedar Bluff, Virginia, died Oct. 26, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command of the Virginia National Guard.

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Sgt. Derek R. Banks, 24, of Newport News, Virginia, died Nov. 14, 2007, in San Antonio of wounds suffered Oct. 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia National Guard, West Point, Virginia.

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Staff Sgt. Jeremiah E. McNeal, 23, of Norfolk, Virginia, died April 6, 2008, in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia Army National Guard, West Point, Virginia.

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Sgt. Jesse A. Ault, 28, of Dublin, Virginia, died April 9, 2008, in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, Virginia Army National Guard, Roanoke, Virginia.

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The following Virginia National Guard Airmen are remembered on the Public Safety Memorial:

Thirty-two Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are remembered among the nearly 900 Virginia public safety officers who died in the line of duty at the dedication of the Commonwealth Public Safety Memorial at the memorial site at Capitol Square in Richmond, Virignia.

2nd Lt. John H. “Jack” Loving: Airman from the 149th Fighter Squadron, 192nd Tactical Fighter Group died Dec. 28, 1948, when his F-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane crashed in the Chickahominy Swamp near Roxbury, Virginia.

2nd Lt. John L. Harris, Sgt. Robert F. Drewry, Sgt. Carl J. Toomey and Pvt. Benjamin F. Renick: Four Airmen from the 149th Fighter Squadron, 192nd Tactical Fighter Group were killed Jan. 22, 1949, when their B-26 invader plane exploded and crashed into the James River near Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Tech. Sgt. James A. Childress: Airman firefighter died 9 May 9, 1960, during an accident while on an emergency response call at Byrd Airfield in Richmond, Virginia.

2nd Lt. Frederick A. D’Amico: Airman from the 149th Fighter Squadron, 192nd Tactical Fighter Group died Nov. 17, 1962, when his F-84 fighter jet crash in the York River near West Point, Virginia.

Lt. Col. James P. Gunter: Airman from the 149th Fighter Squadron, 192nd Tactical Fighter Group died March 10, 1981, when his F-105D Thunderchief fighter bomber crashed during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Maj. William J. Monahan: Airman from the 192nd Fighter Wing died Feb. 9, 1982, during a routine training mission while piloting a single-seat A-7D fighter-bomber which crashed into the water 20 miles north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Eighteen Airmen from the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron were killed on March 3, 2001, when they were returning home after completing a two-week military construction project at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The C-23 Sherpa they were flying in crashed in a cotton field near Unadilla, Georgia:
Senior Master Sgt. James Beninati
Tech. Sgt. Paul Blancato
Master Sgt. Ernest Blawas
Tech. Sgt. Andrew H. Bridges
Senior Master Sgt. Eric Bulman
Tech. Sgt. Paul Cramer
Master Sgt. Michael East
Tech. Sgt. Ronald Elkin
Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson
Tech. Sgt. Randy Johnson
Staff Sgt. Mathrew Kidd
Senior Master Sgt. Michael Lane
Master Sgt. Edwin Richardson
Master Sgt. Dean Shelby
Tech. Sgt. John Sincavage
Tech. Sgt. Gregory Skurupey
Tech. Sgt Richard Summerell
Maj. Frederick Watkins

The following Virginia National Guard Soldiers are remembered on the Public Safety Memorial:

Staff Sgt. Phillip S. Menaugh: Soldier from Company B, 116th Infantry Brigade died in a training accident June 9, 1984, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sgt. Maynard W. Pitcock: Soldier from Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment died July 21, 1985, from medical complications during annual training.

Master Sgt. David W. Powers: Soldier from Company A, 116th Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade died July 26, 1985, from medical complications during annual training.

2nd Lt. Maria Anne Sherer: Soldier from 1032nd Transportation Company died in a vehicle accident Sept. 13, 1987, during a training exercise.

Staff Sgt. Larry H. Comer: Soldier from 116th Infantry Brigade Headquarters died in a vehicle accident July 31, 1988, at Fort A. P. Hill, during a training exercise.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins place the Commonwealth of Virginia wreath at the Eternal Flame in the Shrine of Memory to pay tribute to all fallen Virginians during the Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial May 27, 2019, in Richmond. Virginia.  (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)