Sandy VFW, guests pay tribute to U.S. veterans, active military
by: Lisa K. Anderson Cliffside Cemetery was filled with flags Monday as local residents gathered to observe Memorial Day.

Families, community members and veterans saluted and held hands over their hearts when the national anthem began.

Hugs and handshakes spread throughout Cliffside Cemetery on Monday morning as a group of 60 paid a Memorial Day tribute to veterans.

'We are here to remember all those who gave their lives in defense of freedom,' said Jim Mitchell of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Sandy Post No. 4273.

Following Mitchell, Larry Alexander, a VFW state headquarters representative, spoke.

In a cemetery accented with flowers, balloons and American flags, Alexander reminded the crowd to remember the fallen service people for who they were -- real people.

'They were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and most of all, our friends,' Alexander said.

'We remember them as our next-door neighbors, the kid who lived down the block, the high school quarterback, the cheerleaders and class clowns. They included honor roll students as well as drop-outs.

'Some of them grew up to be police officers and firefighters, and even doctors. Some were rich, some were poor … They were every race, creed and color. They come from every corner of our great nation, as well as other countries.'

After a blessing and the concluding playing of taps, the group dispersed, pausing before headstones.

'It's a very emotional thing to do,' Loretta Wilson, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, said of the ceremony.

Wilson explained that in addition to its Memorial Day ceremony, the VFW hosts Veteran's Day, May Day and fundraising events.

She encouraged community members to support veterans and the families of those currently deployed by help with tasks such as yard work, grocery shopping and caring for children.

Alexander encouraged those in attendance to pay tribute to veterans with honor and care, saying the country's responsibility to veterans should not end with a welcome home.

He spoke about a new generation of service people who have deployed, leaving their homes, jobs and families.

'They are protecting and defending American ideals,' Alexander said. 'There shouldn't be one day we don't honor the dead by helping the living.'

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