Right before Charles Nackos' two best friends left their hometown of Wilson, N.C. to fight in World War II, they wanted to have some fun. So they buzzed through the airspace above their hometown, scaring the residents.
When the two were fighting in the Pacific, both their planes were shot down. One friend lived, but the other eventually died from sustained injuries.
It's for that friend who died and others like him that Nackos, chapter commander of Vienna's American Legion, observes Memorial Day.
"We honor the memory of those who gave us their lives in service to this country," Nackos said during the Legion's Memorial Day ceremony.
Dozens of Vienna's American Legion Post 180 members came to observe Memorial Day at the Post home Monday, in an annual ceremony commemorating those friends and family they have lost over the years.
Each member and local resident who attended had a reason for observing the holiday. For Vienna resident Mayo Stuntz, Memorial Day meant honoring his brother, Stephen Conrad Stuntz, Jr., who was a World War II intelligence officer shot down on a mission in Cebu, Philippines. For Women's Auxiliary Unit 180 president Shirley Martin, Memorial Day meant passing onto future generations stories of contribution and sacrifice through the schools or through the wearing of poppies.
"We always had Memorial Day here in Vienna, ever since I can remember," Martin said.
Keynote speaker Rand H. Fisher, a rear admiral with the U.S. Navy, encouraged the audience to honor those who died by instilling within the community the values by which the soldiers died.
"Honor, courage, commitment, service before self. I know these words ring home here," Fisher said.
He continued, "Great privilege comes with great responsibility we accept...I would ask all of you to pass along, to share- to teach the values which made a country great."
After Fisher's remarks, Martin and sergeant of arms Bob Hatter performed the laying of the wreath. Following that was the playing of Taps and a traditional gun salute.
Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was created on May 5, 1868, to remember those who died in the Civil War.
"It's been 135 years...and more than 41 million have served in the military, and more than a million have died to protect our freedom," Fisher said.