City of Killeen honors service, sacrifice

By Erick Rodriguez, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsMay 30, 2024

A group of people stand outside in a curved line around the edge of an open area with a man holding guitar behind a podium stands in the middle of the open area.
Veteran organizations from across Texas present display wreaths during the Wreaths of Honor portion of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery May 27, 2024, in Kileen, Texas. Hundreds attended ceremony that included speeches, wreath laying, a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps." (Photo Credit: Photo by Erick Rodriquez, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

KILLEEN, Texas — More than 300 community members joined Lt. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, commander of III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos, at the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery May 27 for the Killeen Memorial Day Ceremony to honor fallen American service members.

The air was quiet while the crowd silently observed troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division presenting the national and state colors for the ceremony. With the opening activities complete, the day’s event, hosted by the Area Veterans Advisory Committee, received some heartfelt and inspiring words from several guest speakers, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“America is a symbol to the entire world of freedom, opportunity and hope,” Abbott said. “Today, we honor the heroes who gave their all to fight for those rights, those who went into harm’s way to protect the American way.”

Others offered their own words, to include Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King and Texas General Land Office Commissioner Dawn Buckingham.

After welcoming several important guests, Bernabe turned his attention to those in attendance.

“I am proud to call myself an American Soldier,” Bernabe said. “I am proud to call myself a Soldier because of the men and women that I serve with every day. But most of all, I am proud to call myself a Soldier because of the men and women who came before me, who have served and sacrificed and often gave their lives for their country.

“Today, on this Memorial Day, we honor in particular those men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion in service to our nation,” Bernabe continued. “I am grateful to live in a country blessed with patriots such as these. I am grateful that our nation has citizens who put service before self. I am grateful for their families who supported them in a life of service. May we never forget our fallen service members.”

Bernabe also made sure to give a special thanks and acknowledgement to a few of the ceremony’s special attendees with a bit of a history lesson for the rest.

“The precursor to Memorial Day, Decoration Day, was first celebrated in 1868,” Bernabe explained. “Gen. John Logan, the highest-ranking general at the time, issued a proclamation that on this day, we should not only remember those who died in defense of their country but also to renew our pledges to aid and assist those who supported them.

“Today, in the spirit of that very first Memorial Day, let us renew our commitment to the families of our fallen. Those Gold Star Families,” Bernabe said. “Let us commit to aid and assist them as Gen. Logan implored us to do in that very first Memorial Day declaration.”

Abbott also made a point to honor Gold Star Families.

“Today is a day where we are focused on the families of those who have lost a loved one who served our nation — gave their life for our nation,” Abbott said. “We must never forget that, for some, Memorial Day lasts far longer than just 24 hours. A single day each year is simply not enough to truly repay the debt of gratitude that we owe. We must honor their memory every day to remember that America would not be free if not for the brave that we remember on Memorial Day.”

Following the remarks, more than 15 area veteran and military organizations held a wreath-laying ceremony in front of the stage, each organization offering a unique wreath in recognition of the diversity of each veteran’s background.

The ceremony closed with the 1st Cav. Div. firing a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps”.