The assistant adjutant general of the Army National Guard Maryland on Monday said the sons and daughters of America who have given their lives in military service are "beacons of hope" to the world that freedom and democracy can prevail.
Speaking at the 147th annual Westminster Memorial Day observance, Brig. Gen. Linda L. Singh spoke of America's military tradition — including those who have taken on greater combat roles in recent years in the National Guard — and stressed the importance of keeping solemn the day of remembrance for their sacrifice.
"The fallen live on in our hearts," she said, "and we cherish them."
Singh was the featured speaker at the ceremony at Westminster Cemetery that capped a morning of festivities along Main Street in Westminster. A parade with marching units, floats, re-enactors, motorcycles and politicians made its way through the downtown area starting at 10 a.m., and hundreds lined the streets and waved from windows.
Many followed the procession to the cemetery at the end of church street for the service that include Singh's speech, a laying of a memorial wreath by Mayor Kevin Utz and Police Chief Jeff Spaulding, the reciting of the Gettysburg Address by Jeffrey Scott and renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "America" by Jennifer Gambino and Edith Burbage, respectively. The Westminster Municipal Band accompanied the music, and members Greg Wantz and David Miller performed "Taps" and "Echo" to conclude the service.
Daniel Bohn, parade organizer for the Westminster American Legion Carroll Post 31, which hosts the event, appreciated the large crowd that turned out on the warm, sunny morning. Organizers and spectators along the route offered water as the parade spilled out along Church Street.
Bohn noted this was the 147th annual observance — but not the 147th parade. "People make that mistake sometimes," he said, "but there have been a few years we had to cancel the parade" for weather or other reasons.
"But we always have the observance," he said.
In her address at the cemetery Singh, who grew up in Taylorsville, thanked the crowd for a warm welcome back to her old stomping grounds.
"Going through the streets today just brings me home," she said, noting that she has family in Westminster. "This is part of my home base."
Singh, who serves as an advisor for the Army National Guard Maryland, told the story of one guardsman in particular who had died in the line of duty -- Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II, who died in 2012 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds received during an attack on the Afghan Interior Ministry.
Singh stressed the need for people to observe Memorial Day not only as a time for cookouts, sales and the start of summer vacations, but as a time to appreciate the sacrifices of those such as Marchanti.
"Memorial Day is a special day," she told the crowd. "We must keep it special."