Photos: Andrew McMurtrie. Brittany Giese, wife of fallen Marine Joseph "Ryan" Giese, makes a rubbing of his name on the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial following the Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday in Lawrenceville. Giese, who resided in Lawrenceville and later in Winder, was killed in January while serving in Afghanistan.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ever since her son died in Afghanistan, Connie Wascovich said every day has been like Memorial Day.
Monday was the first official Memorial Day since her son, Lance Cpl. Joseph "Ryan" Giese, was killed by an improvised explosive device. The 24-year-old Marine died in January during his second deployment while conducting combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
During Gwinnett County's annual Memorial Day ceremony, Giese's sacrifice was honored. A wreath of red and white flowers was placed in front of the granite marker of the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial where the former Central Gwinnett High School's student name had been engraved.
"It helps me a lot to know people care," Wascovich said. "Ryan would have been so proud to see this."
Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter said the memorial serves as a constant reminder of the Gwinnett residents who have died in the line of duty serving this county and the country.
"I am humbled by the incredible acts of service that they have given to our country," Lasseter said during the ceremony.
While many people see Memorial Day as the start of summer, it should be a time to look back with gratefulness on our fallen heroes, said Maj. Gen. Maria Britt, the commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard. In particular, Britt said she remembered the 22 Georgians who were killed in action in the past year.
Jennifer Madden, one of Giese's sisters, said the weekend had been "bittersweet" for the family.
"I'd much rather have him here," she said, "but he's definitely a hero and deserves to be recognized as a hero."
Alison Leopard, also one of Giese's sisters, said the ceremony was difficult, but comforting. More than 100 people came to the Fallen Heroes Memorial to observe the ceremony.
"Ryan's faith is the other comfort," Leopard said, "that he's in heaven and I'll see him again one day."
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