Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Alison Leopard of Cartersville wipes the tears from the face of Connie Wascovich of Winder during the playing of bagpipes at the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial in Lawrenceville Monday. Leopard's brother and Wascovich's son Marine Joseph "Ryan" Giese, resided in Lawrenceville and died in January 2011 while serving in Afghanistan.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Judy Mauldin of Dacula attends Gwinnett County's annual Memorial Day service at the Fallen Heroes Memorial every year to honor those who have died for her freedom -- but this year meant much more to her.
"Our son is leaving soon for Alaska," she said. "He has been part of the Georgia National Guard since he was 18 and now that he's graduated from North Georgia College, he wants to defend our country."
She and more than 300 other Gwinnettians braved the heat on Monday to remember the men and women who died while in action in the many wars from the past and the present-day one.
"These are our hometown heroes, our community," Gwinnett County's Communication Director Shaunieka Taste said. "We have the memorial here, which makes it the perfect setting and the event grows larger every year."
It was a star-studded gathering with many of Gwinnett County's employees present. County Administrator Glenn Stephens, Chairman Charlotte Nash, District 1 Commissioner Shirley Lasseter and District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau each spoke to the crowd.
Gwinnett County Fire, Emergency Services and Police Departments, the Sheriff's Office and the Lawrenceville Police Department were in uniform, and members from the Fallen Heroes Memorial Advisory Committee were in the audience.
The Public Safety Color Guard presented the colors and national anthem under the command of Lt. Paul Tucker of the Gwinnett County Police Department.
This year's keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Terry Barron who told soldiers' stories and explained the symbolism of the fallen soldier memorial of a helmet, rifle, dog tags and a pair of boots.
The ceremony concluded with the laying of the wreath, three volleys shot from rifles, a performance of "Taps" and the Color Guard walked out with flags in hand.
"I think the ceremony went very well," Mauldin said. "We always come out to show our support."
No new names were added to the Fallen Heroes Memorial this holiday.