FORT HOOD, Texas - On the eve of Memorial Day, dozens of families gathered at the 20 legacy cemeteries here to remember those who have passed, May 29.
In order to train more troops for World War II, the government acquired over 40 Central Texas communities in 1942, and turned them into Camp Hood. Those displaced community members settled in other areas, but remnants of their inhabitance can still be found.
Gravesites and remains of homesteads lie throughout the training ranges, even in the five live-fire ranges.
Annually, Fort Hood opens its gates on the Sunday before Memorial Day to allow visitors to reach the gravesites and old homesteads.
Dwain Farris used to work cattle in the area, but now he visits on Memorial Day to reflect.
“I come out here on Memorial Day and look at the old cemeteries and think about the past,” he shared.
He talked about how much the land he grew up on has changed over the years and how it’s become hard to recognize certain things.
His grandmother once called a piece of the area home and was well acquainted with her neighbors. Even after she settled elsewhere, she remembered where everyone used to live.
“She still remembered who lived at different home sites,” Farris explained. “I don’t know as near as much about it as I’d like to know (about) who actually lived here and who actually lived there. I know where a lot of the old homesteads are, but who actually lived there, I don’t have a clue.”
Like Farris, many others who visit these sites hold their ties to the area dear, including Gayla Gould, who was paying her respects at Pleasant Grove Cemetery.
“Our families came from out here. It’s history too, but it means something to be able to come and visit the area (and) put fresh flowers out,” she stated. “It’s out of respect. Some of them, of course, fought for our country, and it’s a day to remember that. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have what we have today.”
“Besides visiting your own families … there’s so many interesting markers and there’s a lot of patriotism,” she added.
Gould wasn’t the only visitor that found it important to also take time to reflect on the history of those not related them.
“I think it’s really interesting to see the history of the land that you’re on at every single base,” explained Jennifer Lawson, who visited with her husband, Staff Sgt. Scott Lawson, 1st Cavalry Division, and their son.
“You get to come, and you get to see who was here before it was a base, what went into this base and this area-sort of becoming what it is now,” she added.
They had no blood relation to anyone buried in the 20 cemeteries, but felt it was important to honor their memory, regardless.
“They’re still people that were here, that worked and lived and breathed the same that we did,” she said. “As more people sort of forget, what goes on, I just think it’s more important to see the history of everything and remember the people as much as you can, or at least give them some acknowledgement and respect.”