FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Soldiers, families, friends and others traveled to Fort Riley May 30 to pay their respects and honor those who gave their lives for the United States of America during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Main Post Cemetery.

Seating filled quickly, but that did not deter countless others in attendance who perched themselves along the cemetery wall or sat beside the graves of loved ones. Many brought flowers, leaving them beside the graves of friends and relatives during the ceremony.

"Memorial Day is America's most solemn national holiday," said Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general.
Grigsby spoke during the ceremony, stressing the importance of remembering those who have fallen.

"They answered a call to arms during extraordinary times that required extraordinary measures that paid an extraordinary sacrifice to maintain our extraordinary way of life," Grigsby said. "Today we honor all who have given their life for our nation's freedom."

He also reminded those still here to move forward with their lives and make the most of the time and freedom given to them by that sacrifice.

"I believe it is my duty and the duty of all who mourn the fallen to continue on in their absence," Grigsby said. "Being men and women of character and integrity.

We cannot let the opportunities our lives present slip away. The only thing worse than a life lost is a life wasted."

Together with Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan D. Stephens, 1st Infantry Division Artillery, Grigsby laid the wreath with the inscription, "lest we forget" upon it below the memorial monument in the cemetery.

Scott Percy, a former second lieutenant, who served from 1971 to 1978 in a field artillery unit, said he did not know anyone at the ceremony, but came to pay his respects to his fallen brothers.

"It just means a time when we have to stop our daily routine and remember those who fought for us to give us what we have here," Percy said.

For Paulette Gozman, the ceremony held an important place in her life. She sat with her family beside her father's grave, Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Garman Jr. Gozman said she has been attending the Memorial Day ceremony since she was 3 years old. First with her parents, then with just her mother and now with her children.

"Memorial Day is to honor the people past and present who served our country. Now that my mom and dad have passed, we're still here," Gozman said.

Those in attendance traveled from nearby cities and across the nation to honor the fallen at the ceremony.

Matthew Egan traveled from Montana to attend the Memorial Day ceremony. His son is currently deployed from Fort Riley, but Egan came anyway, determined to pay his respects. Egan said Memorial Day has always been an important part of being an American to him and he has taken the time in the past to help restore a memorial monument in Helena, Montana.

"It's the day that you use to remember everything about this country and the men and women who got us here," Egan said.

The ceremony concluded with respects paid to the flag as cannons fired, followed by the 1st Infantry Division Band playing Amazing Grace. Afterward, many lingered, taking the time to talk with others and view the headstones of the Soldiers buried there and reading the inscriptions on the monuments and plaques.

"In my mind, Memorial Day actually serves two purposes," Grigsby said. "One: To pause and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom's sake, for what we enjoy today, and two: it's a moment to really unify our nation each year. It brings us together because as a nation we come together on one accord, for a singular and righteous purpose."