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'Always remember:' Two soldiers names unveiled at memorial

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Surrounded by members of her son's company from the Army National Guard, Gwen French breaks down in tears as she stares at her son Alex's name on the Fallen Heroes Memorial in Lawrenceville on Wednesday. Alex French IV, a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard unit based in Lawrenceville was killed on Sept. 30 in Kwhost, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised-explosive device. French's name was added to the list on the War on Global Terrorism section of the memorial at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Surrounded by members of her son's company from the Army National Guard, Gwen French breaks down in tears as she stares at her son Alex's name on the Fallen Heroes Memorial in Lawrenceville on Wednesday. Alex French IV, a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard unit based in Lawrenceville was killed on Sept. 30 in Kwhost, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised-explosive device. French's name was added to the list on the War on Global Terrorism section of the memorial at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Latin roots of the word sacrifice show the word means "made to be holy," Col. Aubrey L. Garner told a crowd gathered to honor fallen heroes on Veterans Day on Wednesday.

For Garner, the commander of Fort McPherson, 1st Sgt. John David Blair "epitomizes the very meaning of the word sacrifice."

The soldier, who died in June, saved at least one soldier on the day he died.

A member of the Lawrenceville-based Alpha Company of the Georgia Army National Guard, Blair's name and the name of Staff Sgt. Alex French IV, another member of the company, were unveiled at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial on Wednesday.

Like Blair, Garner said, on the day of French's death, "something sacred was born."

The solemn ceremony, where a trumpeter played "Taps" and bagpipes bleated "Amazing Grace" while a wreath was laid beside the Global War on Terrorism panel of the memorial, made Gwen French, the slain soldier's mother, "proud to be an American."

Generations of the French family came to the ceremony.

"I think they did it with dignity and pride," Alex French III said. "It's like a closure for us, really."

Donna Blair, the widow of the other guardsman, used a pencil to rub her husband's name onto a slip of paper.

"I just think it's great what these people went through to remember fallen heroes," she said. "It's easy to put it out of your mind until it's in your family."

For Rachel Elliott, whose brother Charles Warren died in Iraq in 2005, seeing the growing list of names each time she comes back to the memorial is hard.

But she said it is important for her family that someone attend each heart-breaking event.

"I want somebody to be here, so he's not just a name. He's a person and a family member," she said. "Time heals but these things make it all come flooding back. But it's good to remember."

Marion Buice, a former county commissioner whose son and daughter-in-law worked to create the memorial, said he treks from his home in Blue Ridge as often as he can for Veterans Day.

As a World War II veteran, the ceremony means a lot. But he said the soldiers currently fighting and dying must be remembered too.

"We need to always remember how we got our freedom," he said.

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