Riford: Washington County understands sacrifice made by military members

May 30, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Tom Riford of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and past marine was the guest speaker at the Memorial Day Ceremony held Monday morning at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

HALFWAY — It was a time to pay tribute, and in ways as varied as those who saw fit to signify Memorial Day.

Wayne Taylor honored U.S. veterans during a ceremony Monday at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park by holding up a copy of The Air Force Times.

The May 30 edition of the paper listed 556 Americans who have died in war zones in the last year. There was a photograph of each military member in the list, along with his or her age and background information.

Taylor, serving as master of ceremonies at Monday's ceremony, said he was struck by the ages of service people on the list.

The first man on the list was Army Pvt. Billy G. Anderson, who was 20 years old, he said. The dead on the first two pages were predominantly in their 20s.

"Spend a few minutes looking it over," Taylor told the crowd gathered for the 9 a.m. ceremony hosted by the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County.

Tom Riford then recounted the story of a U.S. Marine who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan last October. Riford, who works part-time at Whitetail Resort, talked about how Cpl. Todd Love came to the resort last January to learn how to ski.

  Veterans have been coming to Whitetail as part of their therapy treatments, said Riford, who is also a former Marine and president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

  Riford said he asked Love if he felt he was a hero.

  "He says no. The heroes that he knows are all the men who gave their lives in defense of freedom. All the men that he said goodbye to at their memorial services," Riford said.

  "I asked him how it was different for him after losing his legs and an arm. The Marine said he has all the same dreams and all the same hopes that he had before he was wounded. He wants to buy a car, he wants to learn to speak French. He wants to learn to play the guitar," Riford said.

  Like a similar ceremony that was held in front of the Washington County Courthouse on Sunday, Monday's ceremony is a longstanding tradition of honoring veterans that has been held for more than 25 years, Taylor said.

  A 21-gun salute was offered, as well as the playing of "Taps" and the laying of wreaths at a veterans memorial wall in the park.

  Riford also talked about the history of the Marine Corps, including that every Marine — whether a pilot or a cook — must receive rifle training.

  Riford looked around at some former Marines attending Monday's service and said members of the group could probably still pick up a weapon and "put up a pretty spirited defense."

  And while some of the ex-Marines might not be able to charge up a hill as they would have when they were 18 years old, "We would probably give it a pretty good try," Riford said.

  He talked about the sacrifices made by military members and said Washington County, "like no other place in America," understands that sacrifice.

  He was referring to the Civil War Battle of Antietam in 1862, when the bloodiest single day of battle in the nation's history resulted in 23,110 casualties. Three days before the battle, there were 6,000 casualties at the Battle of South Mountain, Riford noted.

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