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First veteran laid to rest at state cemetery in Killeen

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Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2006 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:16 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Jimmie Ferguson

Killeen Daily Herald

With their service caps barely staying on their heads against the gusting winds Wednesday, veterans from organizations throughout Texas gathered as the first soldier was laid to rest at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

As the sound of taps filled the air, veterans old and new saluted the casket of retired Master Sgt. Donald Hollingsworth.

Don was a very proud veteran and proud of his service to the country, said the Rev. Mark Kemp, who officiated.

Hollingsworth, 72, was a veteran of the Korean War and of the Vietnam War. He retired from the Army on July 31, 1974; he died Dec. 23, 2005.

Alexander Vernon, who has held various positions with the state Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he knew Hollingsworth well.

I visited Don a couple of months ago when he was sick, Vernon said.

And out of the clear, blue sky, he said, It looks like Im going to be the first one to be buried in this cemetery.

Kemp said it is fitting that Hollingsworth is the first because he loved and served veterans through his service with the VFW and the American Legion. Hollings-worth served as a post commander in both organizations and a commander of VFW District 14.

He was one of the lead people who lobbied to get this cemetery started through his positions in those organizations, said Kemp, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Copperas Cove.

Kemp said he was honored to be the first person to officiate a funeral at this first of seven Texas veterans cemeteries to be built.

While construction on the cemetery began in 2003, negotiations began in 1993, according to retired Sgt. Maj. Theron Johnson, who, along with Chief Warrant Officer-2 Michael Roberts, initiated the action to get the cemetery in Killeen.

On Wednesday, several veterans surrounded the family and friends of Hollingsworth.

Its a long time coming, and you look at Theron Johnson and so many veterans and veterans organization that were instrumental in making this possible, said Harker Heights Mike Barber, newly elected surgeon of the Texas State VFW.

Quite frankly, with the number of veterans and retirees in Central Texas, we are ... thrilled that its here, said Barber, the former commander of VFW Post 3892 of Harker Heights. Unfortun-ately, none of us wanted to be the first one to be [buried] here, and quite frankly, I hope that Ill be the last.

Bill McMenomey, the senior vice commander of VFW District 14, also acknowledged Hollingsworths efforts to bring the cemetery in Killeen.

And for him to be the first one to be buried here, I think that its an honor, McMen-omey said. Its a long time coming for the cemetery; it is well needed.

I think that its great that finally a veterans cemetery has been built in the Fort Hood area, where there are so many active duty and retired soldiers, said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Tilden Morgan, an 18-year veteran on active duty with the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery at Fort Hood.

Contact Jimmie Ferguson at jferguson@kdhnews.com

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