ATHENS, Alabama -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's senior leader joined a local community on Memorial Day in remembering those who paid the ultimate price.

Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general, USASMDC/ARSTRAT, spoke at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives in Athens May 30 and began by acknowledging the Gold Star families in attendance.

"A special welcome to our Gold Star family members who are with us," Mann said. "God bless you, and thank you for your sacrifice. You will always be a part of our family.

"Today our nation takes a pause to recognize the sacrifices of all those American men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation," Mann said. "We honor their memory, and we also honor their loved ones that they leave behind. Many who are still dealing with the tragic loss."

Mann said that the people of Alabama have a long history and tradition of answering America's call to arms throughout the conflicts of the nation's history. He told the stories of Alabama natives Richard Boyd, Buford Franklin, Don Leslie Michael, and Adam Loggins and the story of his son-in-law Bill Meeuwsen.

"Unfortunately, as time goes by and past conflicts become more distant, we occasionally forget their heroism and sacrifice," Mann said. "That's the reason why today's event is even that much more important. We must never forget those who serve, and those who laid down their lives for their comrades, for this nation, for all of us. The parents, the spouses, the siblings, the children, who are still grieving a loved one who did not return home."

Mann thanked the more than 400 Athens community members who attended the ceremony for their presence and recognized the role of the museum in keeping service members and their stories remembered.

"It truly helps us to remember the service and sacrifice of the many on behalf of this nation," Mann said. "It also reminds us that freedom is not free."

Mann asked attendees to remember the Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are currently deployed in harm's way and the families they left behind and are waiting on their safe return.

"Because of the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price and the service of the men and women still on the front lines this country will remain free and will remain blessed," Mann said. "God bless you, God bless our fallen comrades and the loved ones they leave behind, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you."