WIESBADEN, Germany (May 30, 2012) -- It was a picture-perfect day -- the ideal weather to start a long Memorial Day weekend.

But before Soldiers, civilians and Family members headed off to enjoy some well-deserved time off, community members gathered at Veterans Park on Wiesbaden Army Airfield to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the service of their nation.

"On this first Memorial Day since the end of the Iraq war, we are again reminded of the full cost of war," said Timothy Penzien, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 27. "The Iraq war lasted more than eight years, with the loss of nearly 4,500 of the finest men and women our nation has to offer.

"In Afghanistan we continue to pay the price of freedom," said Penzien. "We grieve for their loss, but we must remember, the lives of our fallen warriors -- fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, comrades -- were not lives lost in vain. For each life lost has contributed to America as we know it today: a free nation, a strong nation and the greatest nation on Earth.

"As we stand together today and as a nation mourn the lives lost, we celebrate the lives lived and are forever grateful," he said. "As we remember the fallen, we must accept our duty to teach our youth that nothing comes without a price and that sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance."

Penzien said that the resolve demonstrated by those who stand in defense of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution is what truly makes American the home of the brave. "The courage possessed by the men and women who we are honoring today is something that cannot be taught."

The VFW Post 27 commander asked everyone to take a moment to remember those who fell in the line of duty. "We must preserve their spirit, their dreams, their sacrifices. We dedicate this day to them, and vow to devote this day wholeheartedly to the preservation of their memory."

Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, echoed Penzien's remarks, pointing out the relevance of Memorial Day to the service members of today.

"Sadly, Memorial Day is close to our generation of uniformed service. It no longer exclusively commemorates those who fell on hallowed battlefields like Verdun, Normandy, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, Ashua Valley and Mogadishu. Since September 11 we have written in blood new names to the book of selfless service like Fallujah, the Korengal Valley and Marjah."

Carstens also reflected on members of the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who didn't make it back alive with their comrades from Afghanistan to Baumholder -- Sgt. 1st Class Alvin A. Boatwright, Staff Sgt. Scott H. Burgess, Staff Sgt. Jose Caraballo Pietri, Pfc. Jacob R. Crebessa, Staff Sgt. Edward F. Dixon, Spc. Tyler R. Kreinz, Staff Sgt. Michael S. Lammerts, Capt. Michael W. Newton and Staff Sgt. Alan L. Snyder.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their Families who bear the sacrifice and loss of living with the life left behind," he said. "To our Gold Star wives we say thank you for the invaluable contributions your loved one made to freedom for our nation and for other nations around the world."

The garrison's commander also thanked members of the German Bundeswehr who were on hand to remember the fallen and who are currently serving "shoulder-to-shoulder" with their American comrades in Afghanistan.

As in past years, students from Wiesbaden High School contributed to the event providing its Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps color guard and high school band.