AIKEN - The James L. Hammons Detachment Marine Corps League canceled its annual Memorial Day ceremony because of rainy weather Monday. More than 80 people showed up at Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park anyway.
They were not denied the opportunity to honor the nation's fallen soldiers.
Members of the Marine Corps League held an impromptu ceremony that was particularly poignant this year. For the first time in 22 years, the event honored an Aiken County native, whose name had been added alongside the 152 others on the park's memorial wall.
People gathered under overcast skies to remember Spc. Jason L. Moski, 24, a former Blackville resident and a 1999 graduate of Wagener-Salley High School. He died in Iraq earlier this year.
"Spc. Moski deserved no less," Dave Smith, a retired lieutenant colonel, said after making brief remarks to the crowd.
Malinda Perea, who lives three blocks from the park, was making her first visit there since her brother's name had been etched into the black marble.
"He stood for what he believed in," she said before the ceremony. "He would like for us to go on living our lives and enjoy our life and remember him."
Her husband, Staff Sgt. Larry Perea, was in Iraq when Spc. Moski died. He returned home in late March from a 13-month tour of duty.
"It means a great deal to us for the crowd to show up," he said. "Those names (on the wall) are never forgotten. It means a lot more to me now that it's hit home."
Spc. Moski was two weeks into his second tour in Iraq when he was killed Feb. 25 in Taji, Iraq, by a makeshift explosive that went off while he was on patrol.
Mr. Smith said two factors motivate a soldier to carry out duties that most people never could imagine performing.
"The first thing is that's what they've been trained to do," he said. "The second thing is they know their buddy on their right or on their left is depending on them.
"Jason was doing his duty," he continued. "And he knew that every time he went out, it might be the last time he went out.
"But he did it anyway."
State Sen. Tommy Moore presented a Senate resolution to Mrs. Perea in honor of her brother.
"To the family of Jason," he said to the crowd, "God bless you, and thank you for this ultimate sacrifice."
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.