Part of Monday’s Memorial Day observance at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery will be the dedication of a new stone in the Central Texas Fallen Heroes memorial.
Every year since it was dedicated in May 2007, the memorial has added a stone honoring the service members who have given their lives in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These polished black granite markers — each representing a calendar year, or two combined years — bear the names and likenesses of these fallen heroes from Fort Hood and Central Texas, a permanent reminder of their sacrifice.
In years past, the stones — dating back to when combat operations began in 2002 — have carried the names of dozens of fallen heroes. The stone dedicated in 2008 bore 60 names and likenesses; in 2009, the new stone had 34. Last year, the memorial added 43 names, representing the Central Texas heroes who had fallen in 2010 and 2011, plus a name from 2006.
Just six names and likenesses are on the new stone that will be dedicated Monday, representing the six Central Texas service members who lost their lives in 2012.
With U.S. military involvement in Iraq ended and operations in Afghanistan winding down, we can only hope and pray that next year, the number of new names will be even lower. Indeed, Patrick Turck, president of the Central Texas Fallen Heroes Association, said Friday that no Central Texas soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far in 2013.
Still, the six names on the new stone are a reminder that our service members remain in harm’s way, still putting their lives on the line for our nation.
And, of course, these names represent individuals who are forever lost to their families, their friends and their communities — as do the more than 600 names that comprise the memorial.
That poignant reality is brought home through the memorial’s inclusion of their accompanying likenesses, framed by stark, black granite.
Monday’s cemetery observance, along with countless others around the area this holiday weekend, will feature the playing of taps, inspirational speeches, the laying of wreaths and 21-gun salutes — all appropriate ways to honor and respect those who gave their lives in service to their country.
These solemn observances serve as a reminder that we must never take for granted the price paid by our fallen service members on our behalf — from those who served in World War II to those who saw duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is because of their service and sacrifice that we continue to enjoy the rights and freedoms our nation embodies, and that we hold so dear.
In the midst of our holiday activities, we have an obligation to pause, reflect and remember all those who selflessly gave their lives on our nation’s behalf.
On Memorial Day, and every day, it is our duty as Americans to honor our fallen heroes.
They have earned our heartfelt thanks, and they deserve no less.