KILLEEN, Texas — Nearly 1,000 Central Texans gathered at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery here Monday for a somber Memorial Day ceremony honoring America’s fallen.
Since 2007, the Central Texas Area Veterans Advisory Committee and the City of Killeen have hosted a Memorial Day ceremony, though COVID-19 kept the event away from the veterans cemetery here in 2020 and 2021.
Following the singing of the national anthem by Joe Wolf and the invocation by retired Army Chaplain Gary Honaker, Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King, in her welcoming remarks, reminded everyone to remember the fallen and their families left behind.
“The men and women who put their lives on the line to serve and defend the Constitution, willingly in the face of danger, can rest knowing they will never be forgotten,” Nash-King said. “May we continue to pray for our nation and their family members.”
Col. Ian Palmer, commander, 2nd Armed Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was the guest speaker at the event. He detailed the origins of Memorial Day in America, which dates back to 1868. Then called Decoration Day, the first ceremony was held honoring those who perished in the Civil War.
But his remembrances on this day were much more personal.
“Today, I will remember the story of Staff Sgt. Russell Proctor,” Palmer said. “‘Proc’ was from Oroville, California, and died in Iraq on June 11, 2011 while assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division.
“You knew how much Proc loved you by how much he made fun of you,” Palmer recalled. “At least I hope that’s what it meant, because he made fun of me quite a bit. Today, I’m going to remember … Proc and so many others. I hope you join me in learning the story of someone you didn’t know (and) put a human face to their sacrifice.”
More than a dozen area veterans groups laid wreaths at the site following Palmer’s remarks. The ceremony concluded with Wolf singing “America the Beautiful,” a 21-gun salute by 1st Cav. Div. troopers, and a closing prayer from Honaker.
Opened in 2006, more than 6,000 veterans have their final resting place at the cemetery. It is one of four in the state.
In addition to the ceremony, volunteers for Victory for Veterans placed a single red rose on every gravesite. Among the volunteers was Crystal Jones, her husband, Master Sgt. Cuyler Jones, 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and their two children.
“This is actually our first time volunteering for something like this,” Crystal said. “My husband saw it on Facebook and we decided to come and help.
“Memorial Day is important to me,” the 11-year Army spouse who has lived at Fort Hood for nearly four years said. “I grew up in a military family and married into one, too. This may become a new family tradition.”