• Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III salutes retired U.S. Army Col. Gerald Wilcomb, who served in Korea and Vietnam with the 5th Infantry Division and 11th Field Artillery Battalions during his 30-year career, at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance.

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army salutes retired veteran

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III salutes retired U.S. Army Col. Gerald Wilcomb, who served in Korea and Vietnam with the 5th Infantry Division and 11th Field Artillery Battalions during his 30-year career, at the Memorial Day ceremony at...

  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III salutes during the retirement of the colors after the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

    Sergeant major of the Army attends Memorial Day service in Texas

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III salutes during the retirement of the colors after the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

  • Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Pat McCaslin place a wreath at the memorial wall of the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, at the close of the Memorial Day ceremony, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance alongside dignitaries including the Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Wreath placed at wall of heroes during Memorial Day ceremony

    Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Pat McCaslin place a wreath at the memorial wall of the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, at the close of the Memorial Day ceremony, May 27, 2013. Veterans...

  • Retired U.S. Army Col. Gerald Wilcomb, who served in Korea and Vietnam with the 5th Infantry Division and 11th Field Artillery Battalions during his 30-year career, waits patiently for the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance alongside dignitaries including the Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Retired Col. Wilcomb at Memorial Day ceremony

    Retired U.S. Army Col. Gerald Wilcomb, who served in Korea and Vietnam with the 5th Infantry Division and 11th Field Artillery Battalions during his 30-year career, waits patiently for the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the...

  • Purple Heart recipients sit scattered throughout the audience before the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance, alongside dignitaries including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Purple Heart recipients attend Memorial Day service in Texas

    Purple Heart recipients sit scattered throughout the audience before the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance...

  • Taylor Bentley, a paramedic with the Williamson City emergency medical services, waits stoically to lead the colors to their place of honor during the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance alongside dignitaries including the Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Sun City, Texas, holds huge Memorial Day ceremony

    Taylor Bentley, a paramedic with the Williamson City emergency medical services, waits stoically to lead the colors to their place of honor during the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial...

  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III stands at attention as the service flags for each branch of the military are raised at the beginning of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance.

    Sergeant major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III stands at attention as the service flags for each branch of the military are raised at the beginning of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27...

  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III addresses the audience at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

    Sergeant major of the Army Ramond F. Chandler III speaks at Memorial Day ceremony in Texas

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III addresses the audience at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III addresses the audience at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

    Sergeant major of the Army attends Memorial Day ceremony in Texas

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III addresses the audience at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III shakes hands with dozens of civilians who lined up to meet him after the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

    Sergeant major of the Army Raymond Chandler

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III shakes hands with dozens of civilians who lined up to meet him after the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

  • Army veteran Mark Hilton, Marine veteran Joe Rizzo, and Navy veteran Howard Konetchy, all residents of Sun City, Texas, raise the American flag at the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance alongside dignitaries including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Veterans raise the flag on Memorial Day

    Army veteran Mark Hilton, Marine veteran Joe Rizzo, and Navy veteran Howard Konetchy, all residents of Sun City, Texas, raise the American flag at the opening of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial...

  • Army veteran Mark Hilton, Marine veteran Joe Rizzo, and Navy veteran Howard Konetchy, all residents of Sun City, Texas, salute during the raising of the colors before the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance alongside dignitaries including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Veterans raise the flag on Memorial Day

    Army veteran Mark Hilton, Marine veteran Joe Rizzo, and Navy veteran Howard Konetchy, all residents of Sun City, Texas, salute during the raising of the colors before the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans...

  • Veterans of different wars and services sit scattered throughout the audience during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in attendance, alongside dignitaries including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

    Hats veterans from every branch, every conflict since WWII attend Memorial Day ceremony

    Veterans of different wars and services sit scattered throughout the audience during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Georgetown-Williamson County, Texas, Veterans Memorial Plaza May 27, 2013. Veterans from every conflict since World War II were in...

GEORGETOWN, Texas (May 29, 2013) -- Veterans of every conflict since World War II gathered with family, friends, and dignitaries including the highest-ranking enlisted Soldier in the U.S. Army, for a solemn Memorial Day ceremony amid the green trees and immaculately landscaped grounds of the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial Plaza, May 27, 2013.

A steady stream of people began filling the plaza hours before the event began, many carrying their own lawn chairs as the 700 provided seats were immediately filled. Overhead, a patchy curtain of clouds moved across the sky, reflecting the serious nature of the day.

"I was watching the news this morning, and the reporters on three different channels all used the same term: Happy Memorial Day," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, the keynote speaker at the event. "I'm not sure that's the right feeling we should be having, on this day that we memorialize and remember those who have died for our freedom. I think a better word would be grateful."

"Today Americans across the country are gathering to express their gratitude, celebrating with a parade, or a backyard barbeque," Chandler added. "But it's not about a four-day weekend. The message is that many people have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and we need to stop and remember what they gave so we can remain free."

Barbeques and long weekends didn't seem to be on anybody's mind at this event, as a quiet atmosphere of reverence permeated the air from start to finish. Speakers delivered their messages to a sea of faces sprinkled generously with ball caps that proudly declared their owners to be retired service members, Veterans, VFW members, Purple Heart recipients, and more. Every branch of service was represented.

This was a deeply patriotic crowd of Texans, filled with people who carried a personal understanding of the high price of freedom.

"My roommate at (Texas) A&M and I joined the service together," said WWII Veteran and retired Navy Lieutenant Ed Carr. "His name was Kyle Drake. He joined the Marines and I joined the Navy, and we both wound up at Iwo Jima ... but he didn't make it back. I think about him every year on this day."

"What I think of is the people that I knew in Vietnam that didn't come back," said Carr's son, retired Navy sonar tech Ed Carr III, who lingered with his father in the shady park after the memorial was over, holding back tears. "If they hadn't done what they did, we wouldn't have what we have today."

Chandler used a good portion of his time on the podium to speak about five Soldiers who lost their lives in separate incidents in Iraq, including some he knew from his time there.

"Those five Soldiers I spoke about were personal losses to me," he explained. "I was there when each one of them died, and it's very hard to remember those circumstances. Today, as sergeant major of the Army, I suffer every loss."

He made a point to stress that every American hero lost at war creates a ripple effect through all the people they were close to.

"We can't forget that there is also a family with that young man or woman who is today remembering their loved one with some sorrow," he said.

As he neared the end of his speech, and a light breeze rustled through the trees, Chandler acknowledged the unusually mild temperature for this time of year in Texas.

"It's a beautiful day," he said. "It's a great day for remembrance."

Page last updated Wed May 29th, 2013 at 00:00