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Staff photos by JESSE YEATMANRidge Lions members Linda Martin and Addie McBride wave flags from the back of a pickup during the 33rd annual Veterans Day parade in Leonardtown.
A joyous parade filled with music, motorcycles, candy and lots of red, white and blue to honor America's veterans was followed Tuesday in Leonardtown by a somber ceremony commemorating the county's latest fallen veteran and others who served in the military.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who served for 24 years on active duty and in the U.S. Army Reserves, told the crowd gathered in the town square after the parade that he was proud to be part of the ceremonies honoring veterans.
"For that, I'm ever grateful for this wonderful country in which we live," Brown said. "Veterans Day does hold a special place in my life."
Brown said that he and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) are committed to helping veterans returning from the current wars overseas, including offering quality care and implementing programs to help them transition back to civilian life once their tours are finished.
He said that people must remember the sacrifices that so many American veterans have made over the years, including Sgt. Ryan Patrick Baumann.
The St. Mary's Memorials Association erected a monument on one end of the square that lists the names of service members from St. Mary's County who died in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Four years ago, when the first St. Mary's soldier died in Iraq, the association placed another memorial block and plaque to honor those who died in the Global War on Terrorism.
On Tuesday, Sgt. Baumann's name was added to that plaque as his family stood by weeping. Baumann, a 2003 Great Mills High School graduate, died on Aug. 1 in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border while on duty. His name on the memorial joined those of two other St. Mary's men, Raymond J. Faulstich Jr. and Matthew P. Wallace.
"We were really honored" to add Baumann's name, said Kirk Sterling, a member of the memorial association.
Mayor J. Harry Norris harkened back to the dedication of the square in the memory of veterans on Nov. 11, 1921, when the day was called Armistice Day, to mark the end of World War I three years earlier.
"It is a special day and it is a somber day and we need to reflect on what our veterans have done for us," he said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said the country must mourn the loss of the 4,780 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"At a time of ongoing global threats to our nation's security, it is particularly important to honor the sacrifice of all those currently combating terrorism around the world and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in that effort," Hoyer said.
And, he said, "We must continue to honor their memory and the service of veterans past, present and future by ensuring that they receive the care and benefits they have earned.
"The sacrifice of service of America's veterans is considerable, and we are eternally grateful for the patriotism of our troops. On this Veterans Day, I salute America's bravest and ask all to join me in pledging to honor their courage year round," Hoyer said.
The parade, billed by St. Mary's officials as the largest such parade in Maryland, featured Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, civic organizations, school children, dozens of motorcyclists and others and continued for an hour as people lined the Leonardtown square.
Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary's, Charles) recalled how much the annual event has grown since it started 33 years ago. "The best thing about the parade, you look around and you see all the kids that are out here," Wood said.
Later that morning during the ceremony, Leonardtown Elementary School fifth-graders Andrew Breslauer, Allison Campbell, Megan Conway and Emily Simonson each read an essay about Veterans Day and Jonathan Baker of Leonardtown High School played taps.