KILLEEN — The Central Texas community gathers together at the Killeen Vets Cemetery to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a solemn time for many, but also a time to show pride for the country and the military who serve to protect freedoms.
Family members went in and out of the cemetery Monday, placing flowers, a flag, a patriotic pinwheel, and even coins, to show love for a soldier or a veteran who passed. The military community gathered together to remember their sacrifices.
“To paraphrase General George S Patton Jr., it is foolish to mourn the men and women who died, rather we should thank God that such men really lived," III Corps' Deputy Commanding General Major General John Thomson.
Patton said we must not forget the gates of freedom remain open because of the fallen we honor today.
Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the grandson of Naval aviator and former President George HW Bush, said the patriotism in Killeen is unmatched in the rest of Texas.
He says to those who died in service, “their lives were not taken, but given willingly”. He went on to say, “we remember their honor and we honor their memory”.
Memorial Day is special to him because he lost friends while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“On a personal level, that’s why I’m stirred on an emotional level with taps, with the national anthem, I’m always stirred because I think about them because they didn't come back and they had families, friends and a life to look forward to," Bush said.
It is a time to pause for Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran James Prpich.
“My uncle George who was 22 when he died, he died in Okinawa," Prpich said. "He died in Okinawa, May 15, 1945, he was killed in action."
And it is a time to reflect for retired WWII Vet Lieutenant Colonel Fred Beach, who was in Yokota, Japan flying B17s for more than 30 missions.
“We don’t find many of us any more," he said.
The ceremony included military service organizations laying wreaths and a 21 gun salute followed by taps.
But Memorial Day in Killeen is also a chance for families to come together and spend some quiet time with loved ones who are veterans too, like veteran Kelley Crowder honoring her veteran husband who died a year ago.
“Retiree, veteran, husband, father, brother, good friend," Crowder said, remembering her husband.
Her children shared their thoughts on the significance of Memorial Day.
“If it wasn’t for the soldiers who paid the price on the line, we wouldn’t have this freedom we have," Edward Crowder, III, who lost his veteran father said.
“And ultimately whether they passed overseas or on American soil, it’s our responsibility to show them that it wasn’t in vain," sister Michelé Crowder said.
And we remember that all gave some and some gave all on this Memorial Day.