Sunset ceremony honors fallen veterans

Photo by Marty Gordon
U.S. Army Major Wendi McBride-Rentschler, an assistant professor of Military Science at Virginia Tech and Radford University, spoke at the Christiansburg event. A wreath (to the right) was placed at a memorial at the top of the hill of Sunset Cemetery.

A special ceremony Monday at Sunset Cemetery also took a moment to remember those that have served in the military and have since passed.

Photos by Lisa Bass
A cooperative effort between VFW Post 5311, American Legion 59, Pack 145 Cub Scouts and Troop 42 Boy Scouts posted nearly 900 flags for Memorial Day weekend at Sunset Cemetery.

Flags marked countless graves in the cemetery that is operated by the town of Christiansburg. Andrew Earp, a boy scout from Troop 42, stood in the parking lot and played taps in the background of the ceremony. Earp is the grandson of Buddy Earp, who served in the U.S. Army.

An assistant professor of Military Science at Virginia Tech and Radford University addressed the crowd on the importance of the day. U.S. Army Major Wendi McBride-Rentschler said it is even more important during recent trying times throughout the world.

“It’s important to remember those that have given their lives for our freedoms,” she said.

McBride-Rentschler enlisted in the Alpha Company 299th Forward Support Battalion in 1992, and her first assignment was as the Supply Support Platoon Leader at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. She served in Operation Iraqi Freedom III and IV, and was selected to be Company Commander of the U.S. Army’s 782nd Brigade Support Battalion in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Her decorations include the a Bronze Star, Army Meritorious Service Award, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, Kosovo/Afghan/Iraqi campaign medals, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, NATO Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and both a Parachutist and Parachute Rigger Badge.

McBride-Rentschler told a story of being in traffic one day near Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, when a someone suddenly came to a stop in front of her.

“I was thinking what is this individual doing blocking traffic and causing me and others to be stopped in traffic. It was a soldier who jumped out and ran over to a cemetery and picked up a flag that had fallen over. He set it back up at the grave and then got back into his vehicle,” she said.

That, according to McBride-Rentschler, is the example that military personnel follow of never forgetting or leaving behind.

Memorial is observed on the last Monday of May annually and dates to 1868 when it was called “Armed Forces Day.” Many people take time to visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who have died in military service.

McBride-Rentschler said too many people think of Memorial Day as the first day of summer instead of what it really is for.

The Christiansburg Memorial Day ceremony was hosted by American Legion Post 59 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5311, and included Christiansburg Mayor Michael Barber who spoke at the event.

Photo by Lisa Bass
Troop 42 Boy Scout Joey Kamienski and Pack 145 Cub Scout Blaze Short place flags on the graves at Sunset Cemetery.

Local scouts joined with members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars to stake flags throughout Sunset Cemetery.

Ret. U.S. Army Col. Omar Ross of Christiansburg was one of the oldest in the attendance. Ross, who served for 31 years and is now 82 years old, said the event was important to see many residents from the community showing their respect and appreciation to our service members.

Children ranging in age of one to 12 years stood at attention as the National Anthem was played and the pledge of allegiance was repeated.

Several other ceremonies were held throughout the day in the New River Valley including one at Smithfield Plantation that remembered those that gave their lives during the Revolutionary War.

State Del. Joseph Yost took part in the Blacksburg event.

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