Service Men and Women on Memorial Day Weekend

All Things Considered brings you the voices of Americans paying their respect to military veterans at Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington this Memorial Day weekend. As in previous years, thousands of Vietnam vets paid tribute with the "Rolling Thunder" military parade.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.

This weekend thousands of visitors have come to Washington, DC, for Memorial Day events. We caught up with some of them at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mr. TIM BONNER(ph): My name's Tim Bonner. I am full-time with the United States Army Reserve as a chaplain. One of the hardest parts of my job is being a part of next-of-kin notification teams, so that when, you know, someone does suffer a loss, I have to go and just inform the family members of their loss. And about three weeks ago one of our soldiers died over in Iraq, and I had to go and be a part of the notification team of his parents. And it's the hardest job that I have as a chaplain because obviously it's news that we don't want to bring.

Ms. ROBIN TRAUSSEY: My name's Robin Traussey(ph). I just moved here from Chicago and have just been here for a week, but I'm actually in ROTC, so I'll commission in a year in the Air Force. It's easy to kind of come here and, you know, read the things and kind of walk by and just look at everything. But when you stop and realize that every one of these tombstones out here is a single person, it's pretty overwhelming. It's quite an interesting, you know, place to be, considering, hey, I might be buried here someday. So...

LUDDEN: This afternoon, a few miles away from the quiet of the cemetery, tens of thousands of motorcycles roared through downtown Washington as veterans gathered from around the country. The 18th annual Rolling Thunder ride celebrated those who served in Vietnam, like Red Cross worker Debbie Clark.

Ms. DEBBIE CLARK: It kind of brings back the sound of helicopters and the war, and it's a tribute. It's their tribute to us, and that's where its meaning comes from, not how somebody's dressed or what bike they ride or--but for Vietnam veterans, it's especially meaningful 'cause we had no tribute when we came home.

(Soundbite of motorcyles)

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