Carroll County Times
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Fallen Maryland heroes remembered at Gerstell Academy

Veterans, families, Carroll County officials and local residents crammed together in Gerstell Academy's gymnasium Saturday afternoon to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Outside, in front of Gerstell, 9,000 flags stood in the wet ground, under gray clouds. Each flag represented a Marylander who lost their life protecting the country.


"Nine thousand flags representing the Marylanders who gave everything for the United States of America. Nine thousand flags, red, white and blue," emcee Alan Walden said as he closed out the ceremony.

The amount of flags was meant to draw attention as cars drove past, Gerstell's president Lorraine Fulton said.


For many of the speakers, including Maryland Secretary of Veterans Affairs George Owings III, the display was awe-inspiring.

"It's breathtaking. It's stunning, and you won't see too many of those at one time," Owings said.

Gerstell Academy students and volunteers laid out the 9,000 flags Friday afternoon, Fulton said.

She told the audience that as she walked through the rows of flags and talked to the students laying out each flag, she asked them what it meant. Each told her that it represented someone who died, she said.

Fulton found that she had tears in her eyes and, when she was talking to the students, she noticed some did, too.

The memorial service was originally scheduled to be outside with the flags, but rainy weather caused the event planners to go with plan B and hold it in the athletic center.

The service started with the presentation of the colors, led by members of Century High School's JROTC and the Scottish American Military Society. A Gerstell Academy student sang the national anthem.

Other Gerstell students participated in the ceremony, with a choir singing two songs throughout the service.


Following the laying of the Gold Star Families wreath by Janice Chance, who lost her son, Commander of the American Legion Post 31 Alex Whitney Sr. led an Empty Table ceremony.

A single place at a table was set, with each item — from a white tablecloth to a rose to the single seat — symbolic of a person who lost their life in the line of duty or went missing during combat.

"Remember until the day they return home or find eternal peace, we will remember," Whitney told the audience.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. also spoke at the ceremony, reminding everyone that the things they get to enjoy as Americans are possible because of those who put their lives on the line.

"There's a million other things you can do as an American. You're free. You're free. You're free because of what those flags symbolize," Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich encouraged people to take a couple minutes and remember what freedoms people have as an American and thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country.


While Memorial Day is often celebrated with sales, drinking and cookouts, Ehrlich asked they celebrated in a different way.

"Today is appropriate to celebrate the people who died for you," he said.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, who attended the ceremony, asked people to remember that those who lost someone are constantly remembering them, not just on Memorial Day.

"I just want to remind everyone at 3 p.m. Monday to remember a fallen hero," Weaver said.

Weaver was joined by Carroll's other four commissioners at the ceremony, as well as Dels. Susan Krebs and Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, Sheriff Jim DeWees and Maj. Richard Hart, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

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DeWees said he lent deputies to help the unique event because it was a wonderful effort and he wanted to do what he could to make it run smoothly.


"[It's a] very humbling experience to see 9,000 flags. It puts everything in perspective," he said.

Walden said after the event that it's important to observe Memorial Day because it lessens the country if people forget what fallen heroes did and the sacrifices they made.

"No one made greater sacrifices than the people who we remember on Memorial Day," Walden said.