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With 'Taps,' salutes and speeches, NC remembers the fallen

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David Boraks
Bugler Ron Stewart played "Taps" at Monday's Memorial Day Service at Cornelius Town Hall.

Memorial Day observances around North Carolina Monday remembered American service members who have died in conflict. They included wreath-layings, a 110-mile memorial motorcycle ride and a planting of flags at Salisbury National Cemetery.

Several hundred people gathered at Cornelius Town Hall, where North Carolina American Legion Commander and Marine Corps veteran Jim Quinlan spoke to the crowd about the day's meaning.

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David Boraks
American Legion N.C. Commander Jim Quinlan at the Cornelius Memorial Day observance.

"From the American Revolutionary War to the global war on terrorism, there's been over a million Americans who have lost their lives while wearing the uniform. In fact, 7,000 have been killed since 9/11," Quinlan said.

"They died so that we can continue to do the things we love to do, to honor God, to serve our families, and to enjoy this country," he said.

The Cornelius ceremony included an empty chair in front of the stage to remember those who never returned after being prisoners of war and those who were listed as "missing in action," and never found.

Quinlan celebrated the life of Army Master Sgt. Lloyd Douglas of Cornelius, a Green Beret who was killed in action in Vietnam in May 1967. And he recalled another Green Beret, a friend named Joe, who also died — though many years after service in Vietnam.

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David Boraks
An honor guard from Hough and Hopewell high schools JROTC presented the flags at the Cornelius service.

"About 10 years ago, Joe started having health problems because of Agent Orange. The last seven years, Joe was pretty much bedridden … Agent Orange had racked his body," Quinlan said.

"Both of these men served their country because they wanted to serve. One man died from his wounds, and the other one died because he served in Vietnam. So this holiday is set aside to honor them," he said.

The Cornelius program included a recorded message from Mayor Woody Washam and a speech by Army veteran Darryl Bonapart, the American Legion District 20 commander. There was a 21-gun salute by Legion Post 86, a JROTC honor guard from Hough and Hopewell high schools. At the back of the stage, a group called the Patriot Guard, which supports veterans when they pass away, stood watch.

Other commemorations included events in Charlotte, Huntersville, Waxhaw, and the state Capitol in Raleigh. At Salisbury National Cemetery, volunteers placed hundreds of flags ahead of a memorial service Monday morning.

Meanwhile, hundreds of motorcyclists joined the third annual "Ride to Remember" across central North Carolina. The ride started with a wreath-laying at Charlotte's Thompson Park near uptown. Then, escorted by Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Deputies with sirens wailing, riders traveled to north Mecklenburg and Iredell counties and Salisbury National Cemetery. They ended at a veterans memorial in Kernersville.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.