Veterans organizations gather to honor fallen soldiers at Memorial Day Ceremony in Killeen

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 7:38 AM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - More than 30 Veterans organizations will gather at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center for the Memorial Day Ceremony to honor those who died while serving our country.

The Central Texas Area Veterans Advisory Committee and the City of Killeen are hosting the annual ceremony.

“We do it to give something to those that give their lives here,” Guadalupe Lopez, who is the Central Texas Area Veterans Advisory Committee Chair, said. “We come over and try to honor those that passed away that was killed. It is not a day of barbecue like most of the people think it is, but it’s a day to come out here and honor that.”

Lopez said Veterans organizations from around the area and community members will gather to honor soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

There will be guest speakers including Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash King, Harker Heights Mayor Michael Blomquist and Lt. Gen. Sean C. Barnabe, the Commanding General, III Corps and Fort Cavazos.

Presentation of Colors, laying of wreaths and a 21-Gun Salute and ‘Taps’ will take place as well.

Lopez fought in Vietnam, and he said he lost some of his good friends in combat during that time. He said the ceremony is a way for him to remember them and all of the soldiers who lost their lives serving their country.

“It’s hard for us, for anybody that has lost a soldier in Vietnam, a friend,” he said. “We say that they are part of our families, and we say that we’re soldiers for life.”

Veteran Marty Martinez also said Memorial Day is a solemn day for him.

“I shouldn’t be here because he took the blunt of a grenade that came in,” he said. “Due to that of his wounds, he passed…Memorial Day to me, that’s what it means to me, the loss of life of those soldiers that we worked together with at that time.”

Martinez visits his friends he lost in the service at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. He takes a knee, takes his cap off and says a short prayer next to the grave site.

“Memorial Day is for those that did the ultimate sacrifice for their country, that got killed in the heat of combat,” he said. “These are the individuals that we are here to honor.”

He served nearly 20 years, serving in Germany and Vietnam with thousands of soldiers.

“We were a small group,” Martinez said, talking about his Airborne group he fought most battles with. “In such a small group, you get to know each other, and we lost a few men while I was there.”

He said the day is not about barbecuing or getting the best Memorial Day deals, but it’s a day to remember those brave men and women who did not return home.

“Just remember those that gave their lives for this country,” he said. “That’s the main thing. Just remember them when it comes. Any time of the day, just bow your head and thank the good Lord.”

Lopez and Martinez welcome the community to come honor Memorial Day with them at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center at 10 a.m. Monday. The ceremony is usually held at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, but, because of the predicted weather, they have moved the ceremony indoors.

A full timeline of the event can be found here.