More than 500 members of the Killeen-Fort Hood area gathered on Monday to honor the men and women who died serving their country during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra welcomed the crowd, comprised of Gold Star families honoring their fallen loved one, veteran organizations laying wreaths and more than 100 motorcycle riders from different motorcycle clubs.
Gold Star families are the immediate family members of service members who died during service or of service-related injuries or illnesses.
Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith read a proclamation honoring Memorial Day and guest speaker Maj. Gen. Paul T. Calvert, 1st Cavalry Division commander, spoke of the history and meaning behind the ceremonies held to honor those who died during service. The 1st Cavalry Division Flag Detail and Honor Detail provided the presentation of colors, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.
“This is a special place for a number of families, a number of veterans and it’s a special place for me,” Calvert said. “I have one of my soldiers from the surge, when I was a squadron commander, that is buried here and I’m going to go visit him in just a few minutes.”
The cemetery became more special for the “First Team” commander when, while looking for the grave of his soldier, Spc. Donald Allen Wesley Burkett, he came across the grave of another of his soldiers who was killed in Iraq during the surge.
“To the family members, thank you for your own sacrifices, thank you for sharing your loved one with us,” he said. “In many ways, the families of veterans and those who are serving are sacrificing in a tremendous way, and in a lot of ways they serve our nation as well.”
The solemnity of the ceremony and meeting many Gold Star families was very emotional, according to Jean Shine, the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army for the Killeen-Fort Hood area.
“It’s very heart-warming,” she said. “We were placed here for a reason — it’s to support our soldiers, our veterans and their families, and our community and our state does it well.”
Following the ceremony, those in attendance took time to visit the graves of loved ones and spend a few moments with the more than 7,000 veterans buried at the cemetery.