Hanover resident Edgar Ford, 92, sat in the audience during the county’s annual Memorial Day ceremony at Hanover Wayside Park next to family members, citizens and fellow veterans.
A Navy flight engineer and plane captain on patrol bombers in World War II, Ford said his crew helped escort a Navy fleet into Japan during the American invasion. Many of those he served with didn’t make it back.
Monday, he, like many others paid tribute to the fallen and recalled his time in the service.
“Well, in remembrance of what I was doing during the war,” Ford said. “That’s the main thing I come for.”
Mike Boehme, retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S Air Force and master of ceremonies, asked individuals in the audience to stand up and have a moment of silence if they lost a friend or loved one in battle. Boehme, himself, was among those ranks and told the crowd that the holiday meant more than just remembering those who fought but also the ones who died giving the ultimate sacrifice.
“I had several friends killed while serving this nation in Vietnam,” said Boehme.
The ceremony was not just in honor of Hanover veterans, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va-7) pointed out that afternoon.
“We’re gathering here to remember the brave men and women — not just from Hanover but throughout the commonwealth and throughout the country — who gave their lives, so we can be free,” Cantor said.
The Veterans Memorial wall at Wayside Park pays tribute to a number of individuals who fought in World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and those who have fought recently and are still “defending freedom.”
Surrounding the memorial are hundreds of bricks that recognize individuals for their service and are bought by veterans, family members or loved ones.
The Veterans Memorial wall was erected and opened in 2007. Jack Ward, co-founder of the Hanover Veterans Memorial Committee, said when it was first erected he was concerned about whether or not it would be successful and whether people would care. But, Ward has been proven wrong because of how many people attend the Memorial Day program each year.
“It’s saying please, please don’t forget us, because we sacrificed all of our tomorrows so you can have your todays,” Ward said, referring to the memorial wall’s significance.
When the memorial first opened, roughly 1,000 people gathered to celebrate Memorial Day. Since then, the holiday has brought out hundreds each year. According to Greg Sager, director of parks and recreation, about 400 people attended Monday’s Memorial Day program.
“I think it means so much more to the folks that attend than any other special event [Parks and Recreation does],” Sager said.
“This one sort of cuts across all borders,” he added. “The people that come here, come here because it means something to them. They don’t come to be seen or for any other reason other than it means so much to them.