On what is characterized as the most solemn day of the year, Downtown Fayetteville served as the center of Memorial Day observances in Cumberland County, honoring those who have fallen in military service.

A service in Freedom Memorial Park featured a wreath-laying and moment of silence for the thousands of service members who have been unaccounted for since the Cold War.

“Make no mistake, we are in the presence of the dead,” declared Don Talbot, chairman of the Freedom Memorial Park steering committee.

In the crowd was an ex-prisoner of war who was captured and held in Vietnam for five years.

Ray Schrump was brought to tears describing the significance of Memorial Day.

“To me, it’s a very personal thing because of the number of men who died in my presence and my best friend in Korea died in my arms,” Schrump said. “It’s a day we set aside to honor and pay tribute to these men.”

At the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, a K-9 Memorial service paid tribute to the four-legged comrades killed in action, including “Pepper”.

Pepper served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was killed in action in 2006. Pepper’s statue stands as a symbol of sacrifice in front of hundreds of flags in the ASOM Field of Honor.

Earlier Monday morning, the Deputy Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps on Fort Bragg paused for reflections, focusing on veterans of the Vietnam War.

“Across America, some people dream the dream,” said Major General Jefforey Smith. “Some people love the dream. Some people defend the dream. Thank God for all those who defend the dream and for all who sacrifice themselves for this country.”