FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 3, 2016) -- Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, took time at Fort Rucker's Memorial Day ceremony May 27 to show how one of the nation's most highly decorated veterans, the late Col. Bob Howard, had much in common with many of the veterans whose lives are celebrated in the Wiregrass area on Memorial Day.

Howard was an Alabama native who grew up in Opelika. Howard also exemplified the sense of duty, honor and country in which every Soldier should commit, Gayler said. Howard was also the only Soldier nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three different actions within a span of 13 months.

Howard, whose father and four uncles died while serving as paratroopers in World War II, died in 2009 after 36 years of military service and an overall combined 50 years of government service.

"It is people like this that make you so proud to be an American," Gayler said during the ceremony at Veterans Park.

"From the Revolutionary War through the (current conflicts) that we now find ourselves, these heroes are those whose shoulders we stand upon. They are the reason we enjoy the very freedoms we have today. It is their wisdom that we try to learn from and the mantle that we carry forward to a hopefully brighter future."

Dozens of residents, local officials, service members and Gold Star Family members attended the ceremony. Mike Garnett, commandant of the Wiregrass Detachment Marine Corps League in Dothan, said the event was a reminder that Memorial Day is more than a time to enjoy an additional day off work.

"We shouldn't forget what it's taken to have our freedom -- we've lost some of our friends and buddies," said Garnett, who said he served 20 years combined in the Army and Marines. "Some people don't understand that Memorial Day is not a day off from the week. It's not a party time. It's a time to think and reflect back on those who gave their lives for our country."

O'Neal Boswell, civilian, said the ceremony was a wonderful reminder of veterans' sacrifices.

"It's great to hear about those who have served. It's very humbling," he said. "It reminds you of the huge price that was paid. My father served a couple tours in Vietnam."

Gayler said now marks the time for every American to reaffirm their commitment to service.

"It's time for every Soldier and civilian to reaffirm their own commitment to the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," he said. "That sense of service to something greater to oneself is what makes this nation strong and our Army, Army strong."