It was Memorial Day and, as he does every year, Jeff Dolan found himself standing in the Circle of the Immortals at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens next to his brother's grave.
"Thomas Albert Dolan, 1948-1978," killed in action in Vietnam.
Jeff Dolan was among 250 people who huddled in the damp chill yesterday at the Timonium cemetery to keep the spirit of Memorial Day alive by honoring Americans who have died in the service of their country.
The ceremony at Dulaney Valley, a private cemetery, dates back a quarter-century to when the Circle of the Immortals was dedicated. Twenty-six Marylanders who died in Vietnam, including Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Dolan, are buried there. Recent memorials honor 11 Marylanders killed in terrorist attacks and seven who died in the Persian Gulf war.
"It bothers me that outwardly people seem more interested [on Memorial Day] in the opening of the pool, the sales and going to the beach," said John W. Armiger Jr., president of the cemetery. "All of that is fine as long as they remember why they have the day off in the first place."
Realizing that "Memorial Day almost went begging," Mr. Armiger and his father before him have made a "conscious effort to create a program to attract people."
Yesterday's program drew everyone from crusty World War II vets to babes in arms.
The Maryland National Guard's 229th Army Band played rousing marches, and Maryland Sings belted out patriotic tunes. A lone bagpiper played a mournful "Amazing Grace," and dual buglers played taps.
Marine Lt. Col. Robin Higgins, whose husband Col. William R. Higgins was abducted and murdered in Lebanon, was there to honor victims of terrorism. State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein drove from Ocean City to read a roll call of Vietnam victims.
Lt. Cmdr. Gerry Carroll (USN Ret.), a Baltimore native and decorated combat aviator turned Leonardtown novelist, said that "with freedom comes a price, and that price is it must be defended."
"In wars young men die. That's Rule One. Rule Two is no one changes Rule One," he said.
So it was for Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Dolan.
Jeff Dolan, now 39, stood with his young son Todd in his arms and remembered: How his brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam on a 14-month tour, leaving behind his wife and two children. How in August 1971 his reconnaissance flight -- "it wasn't even his day to fly" -- was shot down. And how he was missing in action for seven years.
He also remembered, on a day when thousands of Marylanders were at the beach, how his brother was on the Ocean City beach patrol: "He did a lot of saving lives down there," Jeff Dolan said.
It was a day for passing on memory. The Persian Gulf war that made Memorial Day 1991 so emotional had receded. It was history now, like World War II, Korea and Vietnam, history to be kept alive.
"We must remember to tell our children," Commander Carroll said. "The problems will never go away, and people are going to have to be defended."
Three generations of Anna Feeley's family were there. Her son, Albert L. Barthelme Jr., a helicopter pilot with the 170th Aviation Company, died in Vietnam in April 1970.
"I had three boys in service in Vietnam," she said. "He was just 21. He would have been home in two weeks. He was awarded the Silver Star because he saved the life of a guy in the helicopter with him."
Now Mary Ellen Barthelme, Albert's sister-in-law, was trying to pass along this bit of American history to her two young daughters.
"Driving out here I had to give a litany of all the wars Americans have fought in," she said.
Daughter Anne, 7, asked a difficult question: "Why didn't they sit down and talk about it?"