From left, Fort Belvoir Garrison Command Sgt. Maj., Garth Newell, retired Col. Gerald Krueger, President, VFW Post 609, Alexandria, and Col. Joe Messina, Garrison Commander, salute after placing the Memorial Day wreath at the Cold War Memorial during the May 23 observance of fallen Servicemembers who have protected our nation’s freedoms. (Photo by Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa.)

Fort Belvoir honors our country’s military fallen at Memorial Day observance

Fort Belvoir kicked off the holiday weekend early Thursday with a wreath-placement ceremony followed by a multi-part festival.

The celebration began in the morning outside the Cold War Memorial on the Long Parade Field.

Chaplain Chad Davis delivered the invocation followed by a performance of the National Anthem by Sgt. Keenan McCarter.

Col. Joseph Messina, Garrison Commander, gave opening remarks, where he noted the history and significance behind the holiday weekend.

“In proclaiming that first declaration day in 1868, Gen. John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was the Civil War precursor of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, wrote that he should not only remember those who died in defense of their country, but also renew our pledge to aid and assist those who may have left among the widows and orphans,” Messina said. “That honor continues to this day as we continue to honor the families of those left behind our Gold Star Families. The cost of defending our Constitution and protecting our allies is sometimes beyond measure.”

Retired Col. Gerald P. Krueger, the keynote speaker, shared his appreciation for the sacrifices made by servicemembers.

Krueger is the current commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 609 in Alexandria, and he is an active participant on the Fort Belvoir Retiree Council. Krueger was accompanied by his wife, Jessica.

“Memorial Day is about recognizing and honoring those military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice in war, or were killed in combat, or witnessed an action or died of their injuries, or in other instances they might have died of blissful diseases incurred by many nasty wounds,” Krueger said.

Krueger served 25 years on active duty in the Army doing occupational medicine research focused on preserving the health and performance of soldiers in stressful working environments. He retired from the Army in 1994. During his career, Krueger worked as a certified professional ergonomist and researched and consulted efforts for the defense department, Army, Navy, Marines, Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security, Border Protection, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NASA.

As a scientist and military research psychologist, Krueger is still widely recognized in the defense department as an expert in human engineering applications and human performance measurement. His Army work included studies in helicopter aviation, armor and light infantry operations, special forces and other military occupations.

Col. (Ret.) Gerald Krueger, President, VFW Post 609, speaks to attendees at Fort Belvoir's Memorial Day Observance at the Cold War Memorial, May 23. Krueger noted the increasing responsibility placed on our country's all-volunteer servicemembers. 

“For me, Armed Forces Day is a way for the American public to take the pulse of itself to recognize that only slightly over 1% of Americans ever served our military on active duty. As a nation we ought to recognize those personnel, now with an all-volunteer force, serving our country in so many ways,” Krueger said.

The ceremony concluded with a wreath presentation by Messina, Krueger and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Garth D. Newell. The wreath was provided by the Fort Belvoir Garden Club and placed at Lieber Gate for the remainder of the holiday weekend.

Later that day, the USO hosted a festival by the Gary Sinise Foundation to celebrate Memorial Day and honor Gold Star Families. The event featured a performance by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band along with several food vendors lined up on the Long Parade Field.

By Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa