Memorial Day is more than just a day off for barbeques, swimming and shopping — it’s a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
On Monday, a ceremony was held at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries for veterans in the country.
“Every day is a Memorial Day when we can serve our nation’s heroes,” said Larry Williams, DFW National Cemetery director.
Tributes included a cannon salute, musical performances by Midlothian High School choir and the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division Band. A special wreath was laid as the names of active duty veterans who died serving their country and are now interred in the cemetery were read aloud to a somber crowd.
The cemetery is a sacred space for families to honor the heroes in their lives.
“I miss you and love you, Dad,” said Robert Palmer, who drove in from Mount Vernon with his wife, Jackie.
This Memorial Day carries heavy emotions for the couple.
“Both of our dads have been buried here in the last month,” said Robert, who himself is a Marine Corps veteran. “My dad passed away on Easter Sunday, just before sunrise this year. Her dad passed away on May 16.”
Robert’s father, Robert C. Palmer, was a Marine Corps veteran. Jackie’s father, Ernest L. O’Daniel, was an Army and Air Force veteran.
The two men, both preachers who officiated the wedding of the children, happen to be buried just across the field from each other within DFW National Cemetery.
“They served their country and they served God,” said Jackie. “Every time I see a flag, I think about all of these people.”
Others like Joe King are making sure his friends, neighbors, and classmates are never forgotten. He spent the morning laying flowers down at different graves – including his neighbor, whose elderly wife was unable to make it there herself.
“This is the place where you find out the realness in friendship. God connected us and allows us that opportunity,” said King. “I pray that God blesses them and has them all up there with Him looking down on us.“
Maj. Gen. James Williams, who commanded the Marines at every level in and out of combat before his retirement, shared a reminder that freedom is not free.
“And to maintain freedom will always cost,” he told the ceremony crowd. “We never forget the men and women that were lost under our command.”
More than 1.3 million service members have died fighting for America.
“There are so many stories out here of heroes. Some may be your family members and your friends, your colleagues that you served with on the battlefields. But this is the place where they come to be immortalized forever,” said Williams.
“I hope you remember what has been done on this day and every day that a service member who has given up their life and service to our country,” Williams added. “Know that our beloved veterans are here in the Hall of Fame, the national cemetery. Visited often, visited with pride, remember our fallen heroes. Never, ever forget them.”
To many, Memorial Day is for those we can never again thank in person, with a handshake or a hug.
“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about my dad. The things that he taught me and things I wish I could tell him,” said Robert.
But through honor and reflection, their spirit lives on.
“That’s what God did, he created something that even after they’re gone, people still have a memory that will last forever,” said King. “We couldn’t ask for anything better than what’s being displayed today.”
Over 80,000 veterans and their eligible dependents are interred at DFW National Cemetery.
Volunteers have spent the last few days preparing the sites and beautifying the space for families to visit on Monday. As the fourth busiest national cemetery in the country, those who maintain it are always in need of volunteers to continue beautification efforts year-round.
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