RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) 59 names of Radford's finest. It's a list a speaker read of people who didn't make it back home to Radford alive. It's echoed in the crosses that take center stage at the Radford Memorial Day service.
One person who did make it home was Robert Nicholson. His friends called him Nick. He was a U.S. Army Veteran who served in World War II.
More than 18 years ago he dreamed up a plan, with help from Bob Thomas and others in Radford, to remember those who died while serving, and to honor veterans in the city.
It grew from just a few people its first year to several hundred people this year.
"My friends, your service has had an impact, a tremendous one," said Alicia Masson, the Radford Army Ammunition Plant Commander who encouraged veterans and service members still fighting to stand proud of their duty.
The band played a medley of Armed Services songs, and the choir sang in harmony.
It was just what Nick's son Bob said his father had envisioned.
"My dad, he would be so very humbled by what has happened. He would say, 'we're doing it for the country,'" said Bob Nicholson, a member of the Radford City Council.
This year Nick wasn't there for the program. He died earlier this year at 94.
His fellow veterans gave special recognition for his passion of this ceremony.
"If he liked you. You had a friend for life," a speaker said during the program.
Near the stage was a picture of him doing what he loved to do during the ceremony in years past, give orders for the 21 gun salute.
"When you look at it, you can see his mouth open, calling the shots. And the photograph shows the fire coming out of the rifles," Nicholson said. "He was a take charge kind of guy. Let's get it done."
It was an emotional day on many levels with a ceremony guests won't soon forget that started with the help of a man who didn't want to forget the people who are named on the crosses.