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Md. VA secretary praises duty, sacrifices

May 31, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY - As secretary of Maryland's Department of Veterans Affairs, James A. Adkins knows how the war in Iraq is affecting his state.

He said more than 90 Marylanders have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003.

"I see their names across my desk," Adkins said Friday during a Memorial Day speech at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park. "Most are 18 or 19 (years old), and I wonder who in the future will remember them.

"Some are older. Last year, I visited with the family of a 33-year-old Marine, a Naval Academy graduate who was killed in Iraq. As I waited, I watched a friend of his weep at his casket, as his young daughter, 1 year old, practiced her first steps nearby.

"She will not remember him when she grows older. He will not be there for her first date or when she graduates from high school. He will not be there to take her down the aisle when she gets married."

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The Washington County Joint Veterans Council organizes the ceremony each year.

Wreaths were placed in front of a veterans memorial and a bugler played taps.

Adkins took over as secretary this month. He retired in 1997 after 22 years of active military service, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs' Web site.

In his speech, he praised the sacrifices of American troops throughout history, from Lexington in the Revolutionary War to the current war in Iraq.

"For more than two centuries, untold Americans have answered the call to duty," Adkins said. "They came from places like Hagerstown and Boonsboro, Sharpsburg and Clear Spring, Funkstown and Williamsport. They answered their nation's call to defend freedom, but freedom does not come free, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Adkins said soldiers' families are shaped by military service, too.

"Many of those who served are married, and many have children," Adkins said. "More than 40 percent of our fighting force today is made up of parents. More than 1,200 U.S. children have lost a military mother or father in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"On this day, particularly, our hearts go out to them and to the spouses and loved ones of those whose lives have been changed forever by the loss of a loved one in service to our nation. We share their sorrow, but we cannot know their grief. What we can do - what we must do as a nation - is remember those who have fallen, remember what they did, why they did it and appreciate what that sacrifice means to us.

"And let us be most thankful that in each generation, brave men and women have always stepped forward to take the oath of allegiance as a member of America's armed forces, willing to fight and, if necessary, die, for the sake of our freedom and for the sake of our children and our nation's future."

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