At Memorial Day ceremony, exhortations to remember the fallen, and those still serving

At Memorial Day ceremony, exhortations to remember the fallen, and those still serving
Vincent Krepps of Towson, a veteran of the Korean War, salutes the marker of his twin brother, Richard, at the annual Memorial Day Observance at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Richard Krepps was declared missing in action shortly before his 20th birthday in 1951. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

The speakers at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens had finished, the rifle team had fired its volleys and the musicians had begun to pack up. Vincent Krepps stood by the stone that bears the name of his twin brother.

There is no grave under the marker. Richard Krepps went missing in Korea more than 60 years ago; the Chinese government says he died in a prison camp near the Yalu River in 1951. Vincent Krepps, who enlisted with his brother in 1949, has tried since then to get the U.S., Chinese and North Korean governments to bring his remains home.


On Monday, as on every Memorial Day, Krepps came to the cemetery in Timonium to honor his brother, and all of those with whom they served.

"All I have to do is close my eyes," said the Towson man, who celebrated his 83rd birthday last week. "The pictures just flip by. It's not hard to remember."

Remembering was the theme Monday at Dulaney Valley, where hundreds gathered to reflect on the sacrifices of U.S. service members past and present.

Each year, the state's largest Memorial Day ceremony marks the sacrifices of Marylanders killed in action during the previous 12 months. But with the United States out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, the ceremony Monday was the first since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, without a new Maryland casualty from overseas to honor.

The sole Maryland service member to die during the last year was Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo, a sailor from Hagerstown who was killed March 24 in Norfolk, Va.

Authorities say Mayo was shot to death aboard the destroyer USS Mahan while shielding a fellow sailor from a civilian truck driver who had taken her gun. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the Navy's highest noncombat decoration for heroism, and buried last month at Arlington National Cemetery.

With the long wars ending, speakers said, it's important to remember those who remain on the battlefield.

"We're done in Iraq, and almost done in Afghanistan," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "But we still have more than 70,000 troops deployed today on contingency operations, and about 85,000 troops forward-stationed in nearly 150 countries. We must ensure our troops have the resources they need to get their jobs done around the world, and they can get back home safely."

Janice Chance, the president of the state chapter of the Gold Star Mothers, described the day she became a member of the club no one wants to join. Chance's son, Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III, died Sept. 9, 2008, in Afghanistan.

The Owings Mills woman asked the crowd to read about one fallen service member, and to share his or her story with someone else. And she urged them to volunteer at a VA hospital or with another organization that serves veterans.

"Never, never, ever forget them," Chance said.

Mary Gail Hare, a retired former reporter at The Baltimore Sun, recounted the services she covered and the family members she consoled.

"All across this nation, people are gathering today to honor the heroism of our military," she said. "They will line main streets and cheer as veterans parade through their hometowns, or, like us, they will stand amid hundreds of graves marked with flags and say thank you.

"Thank you to those who lie here. Thank you to those who served. Thank you to those coping with the wounds of war, and thank you to those supporting them. Most especially thank you to those who still serve and are in harm's way.


"We acknowledge your deeds. We acknowledge our debt to you. And we proudly declare a fervent 'Well done' to each of you."