Remembering The State's Fallen

Memorial Tribute Notes 9 Who Died In Iraq, Afghanistan

May 26, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

They came from different parts of Maryland with the same objective: to remember.

To remember the men and women who served this country in conflicts past and present, many sacrificing their lives. To remember fathers, mothers, siblings and other relatives who were driven to serve despite the risk. And to honor the ones most recently lost.

"Those of us who are gathered here have done so out of a sense of debt and a feeling of obligation to the memory of the dead," said retired Rear Adm. Edgar S. Keats, who served during World War II in the Central Pacific, addressing the hundreds of people spilling out from under large white tents at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium. "We share a determination to preserve their memory."

Before Keats sat the families and supporters of nine Maryland Marines and soldiers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq since last Memorial Day. They watched, listened and sometimes dabbed their eyes during a ceremony that featured the 229th Maryland Army National Guard Band playing the national anthem and "God Bless America" and a 21-gun salute on the lush green grass dotted with small American flags that swayed in the warm breeze.

More than 20 members of Army Capt. Brian M. Bunting's immediate family came to the ceremony, each sporting a white T-shirt that said, "Remember Our Veterans" on the front. On the back were variations on a theme - "Remembering my husband, my hero" or "Remembering my brother, my hero" among them. Known as Bubba since childhood, Bunting was killed Feb. 24 in Afghanistan after an explosive detonated near his vehicle.

"He really means something to everybody," his wife, Nicole, said. "It's not just a name - it's a brother, it's a daddy, it's a son-in-law. It's someone really special."

Bunting, 29, of Potomac, is survived by his nearly 2-year-old son Connor and a baby boy expected to arrive in November - a child he and his wife had planned, she said, right down to his name: Cooper.

Nicole Bunting felt it was her job to preserve her husband's legacy, she said. "That's the least I can do."

The family planned to visit his grave at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday afternoon, they said.

For Anna Davis and her family, the loss of her husband, Army Master Sgt. Anthony Davis of Baltimore, was still fresh, but they came knowing that he would have appreciated it.

"I'm here to support him because I know he would be here if it had been the other way around," Anna Davis said.

Davis, 43, was shot by an Iraqi soldier Nov. 25, while on a humanitarian mission.

One of 17 siblings, he had five children.

"He was like the humanitarian of the family, always liked to keep peace," older sister Barbara Flowers said. "He was always pleasant."

Davis served in both Gulf wars and in Afghanistan, and was planning to retire from the Army after his last tour. His retirement plan, which involved being a greeter at Wal-Mart and opening a hot-dog stand outside his daughter's dormitory, still brought smiles to the faces of his wife, 10-year-old son Marc and daughter Diana, 18.

"He was ready," Anna Davis said of his plans for life after the military.

A crowd of about 1,200 attended yesterday's ceremony, many of them veterans who stood when their respective service songs were played. But others present simply came to pay homage to them and those currently in the military.

"Just thinking of those people in Iraq and Afghanistan, I just ... wanted to remember them and show support," said Laura Chandler, who felt compelled to come after hearing about the event on the news yesterday morning. Chandler, who lives in Cockeysville, was wearing a shirt that read "God Bless America."

She was moved by the ceremony, she said. "It just makes me think of the world we live in today, and how our grandfathers fought for us so we didn't have to."

Tim Elliott, who lives across from Memorial Gardens, was among a curious bunch of people who gathered to examine a Black Hawk helicopter stationed at the cemetery entrance. Although he and neighbor Janis Hofsass didn't make it to the ceremony this year, coming to the cemetery for Memorial Day is a regular event for them - and a chance to teach their children to honor those who have fought for them, they said.

"What's Memorial Day?" Elliott asked his daughter, Catherine.

"It's when we remember all the soldiers," the 7-year-old replied.

He smiled. "It's not a three-day vacation."

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