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9/11 lessons learned: 21 years later, veterans and volunteers pay tribute on National Day of Service

Carry The Load and the VA National Cemetery Administration host this National Day of Service at more than 60 national cemeteries across the country.

DALLAS — A National Day of Service is an annual reminder of the sacrifices paid on September 11, 2001 and the sacrifices in the years of military operations, and military losses, that followed.

And for a Marine veteran, Friday also proved a chance to remind his 13-year-old daughter of the lessons learned. 

"Just like normal flags, you don't want them touching the ground," Judd Word said to his daughter Lexi as they, and an estimated 200 other volunteers, descended on DFW National Cemetery early Friday morning.

The veteran and Dallas firefighter joined Carry The Load as it held its annual day of service at the cemetery, with volunteers fanning out across the cemetery grounds to scrub and clean every headstone and grave marker.

Word also used the volunteer effort to teach his daughter about the different military branches and the human costs of American conflicts and wars. 

"To make sure that she understands what 9/11, and what people, have done for this country so she can be free," said Word. 

Lessons Chris Board, an ambassador for Carry The Load, knows all too painfully well. His son Cody, a soldier who fought battles in Afghanistan in the years after 9/11, is buried at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Oklahoma.

"It instills my sense of patriotism and the fact that this is the greatest country in the world. And I love it," Board said of the volunteer effort. "And it's great to see Americans volunteering to take care of our heroes."

Among the volunteers, WFAA found Blake Zipoy placing his right hand on every headstone he cleaned and offering each a silent prayer.

"I thank them for everything they've done for their sacrifice, and I pray that they're at peace," said Zipoy, an employee of USAA. 

Carry The Load and the VA National Cemetery Administration host this National Day of Service at more than 60 national cemeteries across the country.

"Every one is a hero to me," Word said of the veterans buried at DFW National Cemetery. "They either defended or lost their lives protecting this country."

And Lexi was listening.

"Do you think people your age really understand this place and how meaningful it is?" WFAA reporter Kevin Reece asked, as she and her father continued cleaning headstones.

"Not as much as there should be, no sir," she replied.

"But maybe you do a little more now?" Reece asked.

"Yes sir," she said.

A lesson every 9/11 teaches us, again. 

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