COLUMBIA, S.C. -- While this time of year is traditionally a time to celebrate, there are military families with heavy hearts who are missing a loved one deployed far away or who paid the ultimate price and won't be coming home.

Community leaders and military personnel joined Monday for a wreath-laying ceremony at the South Carolina Armed Forces Memorial at the South Carolina State House, in Columbia. The annual event provides an opportunity to remember the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who served and to honor their sacrifice during the holiday season.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brad Owens, director of Joint Staff for the South Carolina National Guard, joined U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Lambe, assistant adjutant general for Air, South Carolina National Guard, placed an evergreen wreath adorned with small flags from each branch of service at the memorial. This was the 11th year for the ceremony at the State House and part of a nationwide simultaneous event.

"The wreath represents our commitment as a united America to not only remember the fallen, but to symbolize our commitment to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation, and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf," said Carol Davis, South Carolina state representative and leader for Wreaths Across America, Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

Members of the South Carolina Army and Air National Guard provided an Honor Guard team to present the colors and bugler to play Taps during the ceremony.

"We embrace these opportunities to teach important values to our children about things that have made our country great," said Owens. "We encourage all South Carolinians to remember our fallen heroes. The holiday season is especially hard for their families and they need to know they are not forgotten."