TIMONIUM, Md. — Hundreds of people gathered at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Monday morning for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony to honor and remember those who gave their lives protecting it.
"Every soldier, sailor, airmen, marine, man or woman who wore the uniform and died in its service; it is for them we are here today," said organizer Alan Walden.
In addition to honoring those fighting the battles of today and those who gave their lives in Korea, Vietnam and World War II, the 2019 ceremony honored three Maryland service members who were killed within the last year.
Captain John Graziano, U.S. Air Force, died on November 13, 2018 at age 28. An Elkridge native, Capt. Graziano was an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron. He was killed when his T-38C Talon jet trainer crashed at Laughlin Air Force base in Texas, where he was stationed.
"He loved what he did. He was dedicated to the Air Force and this country and he was living his dream since he was 2 years old," said his father Thomas Graziano. "He was somebody who whenever his friends needed something, he was always there for him."
Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent, U.S. Navy, died January 16, 2019 at age 35. A Navy cryptologist Stationed at Fort Meade, Senior Chief Petty Officer Kent was killed in a blast set off by a suicide bomber in northern Syria.
"She was a loving wife and mother of two young boys, a cancer survivor, a marathon runner, a world traveler, a master of languages, an intelligence-gathering wiz" said Walden. "She was part of the military’s top tier special operations forces, working closely with the NSA to target ISIS leaders."
A special tribute was also made to honor Maryland National Guardsman, Staff Sergeant Eddison Hermond, age 39, who passed away on May 29, 2018 in Ellicott City, in a heroic attempt to save a business owner's life during the catastrophic flash flood.
"Staff Sgt. Hermond was trained to respond to emergency situations. He took special pride in working on search and rescue missions," said Walden. "Without exception, friends, family and colleagues speak of Eddison's big heart, selflessness and compassion for others."
"What these three Americans have in common with all who lie here today is that they put us first," said Brigadier General Adam Flasch, Director of Joint Staff, Maryland National Guard. "We must honor their commitment with our own daily effort to make this country worthy of their sacrifice."
"We need more of these heroes. On Memorial Day, we honor those whose lives are lost. As we remember their sacrifice, we also come together to support their loved ones," said Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr.
"Every day is Memorial Day to us," said Peggy Marchanti, wife of fallen soldier Maj. Robert Marchanti II. "He was as strong on the inside as he was on the outside. He was a big, brilliant gentle man."
Maj. Marchanti died on Feb. 25, 2012 from gunshot wounds received during an attack inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"I want you to know that it's going to be okay. You will laugh again. You will smile again. You will find joy again. You will have a holiday again where the day is not so painful because all you can do is think about the loss," said Marchanti to the families of fallen service members.
This year marked the 52nd anniversary of the ceremony held at Dulaney Valley’s Circle of the Immortals. Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman of Kentland was killed on April 8, 2019 in a roadside bombing attack in Afghanistan. Marine Corps Platoon Cmdr. Hugh McDowell of Chevy Chase died on May 9, 2019 from injuries sustained during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton in California. These two dedicated marines will be honored at the 2020 Memorial Day ceremony.