RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia War Memorial in Richmond hosted the 66th Annual Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, honoring and remembering the military service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States.

Veterans, community members, Gold Star Families, and local leaders gathered at the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater for musical performances by the Navy Fleet Forces Band and remarks from several speakers, including Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran herself.

Major General Mark Simerly, Commanding General for the Combined Arms Support Command Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fore Lee, also spoke during the ceremony.

“Memorial Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation,” he said. “Memorial Day was first observed after the Civil War and was called Decoration Day because families typically remembered their loved ones by decorating gravesites with flowers and flags. We still do that today.”

Maj. Gen. Simerly noted that the first Memorial Day was celebrated in 1868, but the deaths of U.S. military service members began decades before that.

Since eight members of the Lexington militia lost their lives in the first battle of the America Revolution, the U.S. military has recorded nearly 1.2 million service members who have died defending the country.

“We’ve lost soldiers in combat, we’ve mourned our best friends, we’ve lost soldiers to suicide,” Virginia Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Jason Pak said. “Part of our duty to honor those who died in service to our country is to engage their family and friends and carry on their legacy. Go out and volunteer, serve your community, do something for the greater good, and serve to emulate the service and love for the country, like the great heroes who came before us.”

One such family is that of Thaylene Pinnick, who lost her younger brother on Nov. 20, 2019.

“I wanted to come out today to, obviously, honor those that have given their life for our country, and, obviously, here in Virginia, and also, just to represent those, too, who have passed away on a different battlefield, and that’s the battlefield of PTSD,” she said. “I just want to honor my brother, who served bravely in Iraq and also in Haiti, and came home, and continued to fight those battles.”

Pinnick told 8News that she had always been proud of her brother, who re-enlisted after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“He went back to serve, and then, the battles that he fought from then on and the enlistment that he had was where most of the trauma that he experienced [came from],” she said. “The stories that he told, that he could tell, were enough for me to know that there was a lot more.”

Pinnick said that her father and grandfather were also veterans. Since her brother’s death, she said she has been inspired to support those in the armed forces, particularly upon their return from service.

“We need to be the light in these times of darkness for those that are still carrying that battle scar, carrying those battle memories, and who have carried the bodies of their buddies off the battlefield, which my brother did several times,” she said. “Random acts of kindness are who we are as humans. We need to be that to others.”

Beginning on June 24, the Virginia War Memorial will be home to the Hill of Heroes, where 12,000 American flags are placed on a hillside to symbolize the name of Virginians engraved in the walls of its shrines. The installation is scheduled to be removed on July 8.