“It’s very special, and I feel like it’s really not for me — it’s just honoring my son,” Crabtree said.
The late Daniel Crabtree, a Green Beret, was recognized at the 70th annual Memorial Day Ceremony in the Marietta National Cemetery during a special moment dedicated to mothers who had lost sons and daughters in battle.
Some of those mothers were members of the ceremony’s honoree organization this year, the west Cobb chapter of Gold Star Mothers.
“This is really good to be here because this is a very difficult day for all of us mothers,” Crabtree said.
She spoke of her son’s final mission.
“His last mission was the killing of (Saeed) al-Shihri, who was the No. 2 man in al-Qaida, and he was killed on the way back to his camp,” Judy Crabtree said. “He was a good father, wonderful son, loved God and he was very loved by so many people.”
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin estimated 600 to 800 people in attendance, which he said is usual for the ceremony. The National Memorial Day Association of Georgia sponsored the event.
One mother and daughter attended the event together to pay their respects to Albert Evans, a family member who served in World War II and was killed in Guam.
Andrea Mallet, the daughter, said: “We feel it’s important to come out every year because even though my uncle has been gone 70 years, it’s important that he’s not forgotten.”
She said the two, who live in Atlanta, have been to the Marietta cemetery the past eight years and they enjoy the atmosphere.
“It’s the national cemetery. It’s beautiful. It’s historic. There is a beautiful spirit here on this day,” Andrea Mallet said. “It’s always a beautiful ceremony, very organized, very patriotic.”
Gloria Mallet said she finds Memorial Day events an important part of showing the military how valued it is by citizens.
“If we honor a lot of other things, like entertainers, et cetera, I think all of the service people are well beyond that. We have to honor them. They’re the only reason we have this lifestyle — is people in the military who have served,” Gloria Mallet said.
The featured speaker, retired U.S. Army Major General James Donald, commended the crowd on its dedication to remembering veterans and urged people to share that sentiment with everyone to honor what veterans have done for the country.
“It is this notion of duty, honor and country that underpins these men’s service to the nation,” Donald said. “It is on this moral foundation that our veterans and those we recognize today have built their legacy.”
Donald closed his speech by asking the audience to continue to respect veterans and their rights after the holiday.
“As our country debates about the economic crisis we face and urges us to make spending cuts, I urge us to remember that the veterans who are memorialized here — that their retirement and medical benefits are not gifts. They are earned with blood, sweat, loss of life and sometimes even life,” Donald said.
Tumlin said he was proud Marietta could offer the service.
“I think it’s important because it makes the sacrifice and what we honor just so real,” Tumlin said. “So many veterans gave their lives right here. They weren’t overseas; they were sacrificed here.”
Lt. Col. Jim Johnson, a member of the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard, one of the oldest active military organizations in Georgia, said he thought the ceremony accurately portrayed what Memorial Day should be about.
“When it comes to remembering veterans, if we don’t continue to remember them and pass on the stories to the young people, then that will be forgotten, and that is an important part of our heritage,” Johnson said. “It would just be a travesty if that is forgotten.”
Many of the 80 members of the Atlanta-based organization attended the event to support fallen veterans and present a floral wreath during the ceremony, along with many other groups.
“Because our history of the Gate City Guard and the Old Guard is rooted in the War Between the States, Marietta was a key location in the early parts of the Battle of Atlanta,” Commandant of the Old Guard John Dietrichs said. “We are here to honor the falling of both sides, North and South, as we have done since 1879.”
Pfc. John Van Holm, an active member of the Army, came from Cumming to work the event. He said he liked to see the younger generation taking part in memorializing fallen veterans and he enjoyed the service.
“For me, it’s a feeling of respect and gratitude,” Van Holm said. “I really feel honored to be able to pay a little bit back to them.”