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Military Parade and Ceremonies Mark Memorial Day on St. Croix

May 29, 2006 – The quiet streets of Frederiksted played host to a military parade Monday in honor of Memorial Day. Members of the Virgin Islands Air and Army National Guard, accompanied by the 73rd military band, led the small but distinguished group through the west end town, stopping at various places along the route to honor veterans.
Also marching was a combined group of American Legion Auxiliary posts, both men and women, who represented veterans and families of veterans.
"We march as a joint force in support of our fallen comrades," said Capt. Cindy Cuencas, commander of the 285 CBCS. Cuencas said the all the VING full time staff was participating in the parade, which began at 9:30 a.m. at the Claude O. Markoe Elementary School and ended with a short ceremony at Buddhoe Park.
Memorial Day actually began more than 100 years ago following the American Civil War. The observance was first called "Decoration Day" but was later changed into a day to not only honor veterans, but also to remember those who died to create in service.
The sounds of the military band's bass and drum line preceded the band's movement through near-empty streets. The procession wound its way up Fisher Street and left to the Frederiksted cemetery, where a graveside ceremony would take place.
Over on King Street, one resident displayed her patriotism and love for a fallen veteran by hanging an eight-foot American flag from her two-story residence. "It's the flag from my late brother's coffin," said Josephine Bennerson, 82. "My brother, Charles, he was a WWII veteran."
Bennerson said it's a shame more people don't observe Memorial Day on St. Croix. "We have to care! I am going to care until the day I close my eyes," she said. "I don't care how many flags you fly, this is our home," she said gesturing to the flag.
Entering the cemetery the army band fell silent; all that could be heard was the muted sound of marching feet. The color guard gathered around the grave of Cpl. Reginald A. Payne, U.S. Marine Corps. There was a brief ceremony, including a prayer reading and a hymn. Then a seven-member firing squad fired off a volley of shots while a lone bugle player played "Taps."
The entourage continued down the hill toward the sea, and by the time the procession arrived at the Frederiksted Pier a group of about 60 residents and visitors had gathered. Following a prayer for all deceased soldiers, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards threw a bouquet of flowers off the dock.
The flowers – a mixture of pink roses, baby's breath and ferns – floated solemnly in the calm blue green water.
The final observance was the program at the bandstand in Buddhoe Park.
Lawrence A. Bastian, an American Legion commander, said "Today we honor all those who have died in action, on land or on sea, in active duty or inactive."
Bastian said the ceremonies were to especially honor Virgin Islanders who died in the Iraq war. "Honor them by remembering them," said Bastian.
"We live here in relative peace," said keynote speaker Alphonso Franklin of the Bromley Berkeley Post #133. "But there is military conflict all around the world."
Franklin asked the audience to remember the sacrifices of military personnel and to carry on their legacy of service to the community.
The ceremony concluded with a roll call of deceased veterans and another selection by the military band.

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