Memorial Day is set aside to remember the fallen, but in this community, that commitment isn’t restricted to just one day out of the year.
Fort Hood-area residents are known throughout the military for their strong, unwavering support of the service men and women who put themselves in harm’s way on behalf of our nation.
Likewise, our community also has demonstrated its reverence and respect for those who have given their lives in service to our country — especially in its continued support of the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery.
One such example is the Wreaths for Vets program, which since its inception in 2005 has been committed to adorning the grave of each service member at the veterans cemetery with a holiday wreath between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
And each year, the community responds to the call to assist with the effort.
More than 2,500 people showed up on Thanksgiving weekend to offer their help in adorning more than 6,500 gravesites.
Just as noteworthy, about 500 people showed up on a cold, windy day in January to retrieve the wreaths and prepare them for storage.
Many of those who showed up to help had no connection to a particular veteran; they just wanted to do their part to honor those who died in service to the nation.
Other volunteers, many with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 147 in Killeen, work to place flags at the gravesites on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, assuring that our fallen service members are properly honored on these important national holidays.
Still others donate their time at the cemetery throughout the year to care for the grounds, provide information and to help visitors find the gravesite of a loved one.
A permanent commitment to remember those we have lost can be found in the Central Texas Fallen Heroes Memorial, which bears the names and likenesses of Central Texans who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The last of the memorial’s 10 granite stones was dedicated at the cemetery in 2015, but thankfully there were no new names inscribed on the memorial this year.
Yet, we continue to remember those who gave their lives in the defense our nation, who paid the ultimate price so that we may continue to enjoy the liberties we hold dear.
One way we can pay tribute to our fallen heroes is by striving to honor the service men and women who live and work among us every day.
Our community took a giant step in that direction Friday with the dedication of the new Armed Services YMCA in Harker Heights.
The $13 million, 54,000-square-foot building — the flagship facility among Armed Services Y’s in the nation — was conceived after local YMCA officials recognized a need for a family center for soldiers, families and those receiving rehabilitation.
As the first off-post Armed Services YMCA in the country, the Harker Heights facility provides an important bridge between our soldiers and their families and the community at-large.
This holiday weekend, we all stand together in honoring the sacrifices of our fallen service members from every armed conflict.
We must remain mindful that Memorial Day is not a celebration but an observance.
As such, we should pause and reflect on the debt we owe all those who have died in defense of our nation.
But more importantly, as individuals and as a community, we must continue to honor their sacrifice all year long,
It’s simply the right thing to do.