Master Sgt. Cindy Langness
By Kasey Joyce
St. Louis (KSDK) - On Saturday, a parade will welcome home veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but just a few minutes ago, a special all-night ceremony kicked off at Soldiers' Memorial.
It was a tribute to those who have lost their lives, and at 9:11 p.m. volunteers started reading the names of all 6,502 servicemen and women who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each volunteer is a veteran, service member, or family member of someone who lost their life, and they each have a special reason for taking part in this ceremony.
"That was the toughest thing I've had to do was go up and knock on someone's door and explain to them that they have lost their child," said Master Sgt. Cindy Langness.
But in 2004, Langness' assignment as a member of the Marine Corps.
Twelve local marines died that year. Langess was responsible for notifying the families of four of them.
"The last one I got tasked with happened to be killed in action on November 10, 2004, the Marine Corps birthday," she said.
His name was Lance Corporal Aaron Pickering.
Langness will never forget the moment she knocked on his mother's door.
"I had to speak those words... killed in action," she said.
In the weeks after his death, Langness formed a special bond with Pickering's family, a bond that still holds strong today.
When she heard about the reading of the names of fallen soldiers, she knew what she had to do.
"I found out that they were looking for volunteers to read names of the fallen. So I volunteered," she said.
Her one request was that she could read the fallen service member's names that begin with P, and when she gets to Pickering, "I will be strong for him and I will show him all his due respect."
The reading of the names of the fallen will continue all night long at Soldiers' Memorial, up until the kick off of the parade at noon.
Cindy Langness expects to do her reading early Saturday morning around 5.