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Region getting ready to show its respect page 2
Fredericksburg to honor fallen soldiers and its own violent past on Memorial Day; Virginia's governor will deliver keynote address

 Dustin Dey of Boy Scout Troop 179 in Fredericksburg lights luminarias before the start of the Memorial Day observance at Fredericksburg National Cemetery yesterday.
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Date published: 5/30/2010


According to research by National Park Service historian Donald Pfanz, the first people to gather for Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) at Fredericksburg National Cemetery were black residents in 1868. They wished "to honor those who had died for their freedom," and came from as far away as Washington and Richmond to do so, according to Pfanz, who is staff historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Tomorrow, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will make a similar pilgrimage. He is the keynote speaker for the 11 a.m. Memorial Day observance at the cemetery.

"We're pleased and surprised to have him," park Superintendent Russ Smith said. "We sent an invite, expecting it would not be accepted."

McDonnell generated national controversy last month when he declared April to be Confederate History Month in a proclamation that did not mention slavery. McDonnell later apologized and amended the proclamation.

Smith said he does not know the content of McDonnell's speech, which will be delivered with thousands of Union soldiers' graves as a backdrop.

"I'm sure that will bring a number of people who will want to hear what he has to say," Smith said.

Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036
Email: jbeals@freelancestar.com

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A Memorial Day observance will be held at Fredericksburg National Cemetery tomorrow at 11 a.m. Gov. Bob McDonnell is the keynote speaker.

Other participants in the Memorial Day ceremony will include House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, James B. Breeden of American Legion Post 55, the Rev. Donald J. Rooney of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fredericksburg, the 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Virginia Army National Guard, and a bugler from the Quantico Marine Band playing taps.

The National Park Service's Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center, on Lafayette Boulevard adjacent to the national cemetery, offers handicapped parking.

Parking for the general public will be at the University of Mary Washington parking lot at the corner of William Street and Sunken Road. Trolleys will shuttle visitors, free of charge, from the UMW lot to the cemetery between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Call 540/371-0802 for details.