By Dave Burge, El Paso Times
Larger flags lined the walkways and roads, and visitors started arriving a couple of hours before the annual Memorial Day ceremony to pay their quiet respects or get a good place to sit for the ceremony.
More than 1,000 soldiers, veterans, family members and civic leaders attended the remembrance ceremony Monday at the national cemetery.
Rosemary Munoz, of Fabens, was among three generations of her family who gathered at the cemetery. Both of her parents, Carlos B. and Elisa Terrazas, are buried there, she said.
“We are here to remember what they fought for; that’s why we are here,” Munoz said as she quietly fought back a tear.
Munoz’s father served in the Army during World War II.
Brig. Gen. Kurt S. Crytzer, commanding general of Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, said Memorial Day is about more than signaling in the unofficial start of summer or having a day off.
“We are here to pay tribute and honor to our fallen,” Crytzer said. “Since 9/11, the nation has been in a constant state of war or conflict and we have lost some of our best, so we are here to pay tribute to them. We have lost many throughout our history, pre-9/11, from the beginning of our nation on.”
Crytzer said the word “hero” is often overused in today’s world.
But his heroes are those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, the families who have lost a loved one but have persevered and support other families in similar circumstances and the wounded who refuse to let their injuries get the best of them.
“Only 0.5 percent of our citizens volunteer to serve in the armed forces,” Crytzer said. “It is important that we get the word out to our fellow citizens and they understand the sacrifices that are made to keep them free.”
Memorial Day is a way to “pay tribute, remember them, come together and mourn, heal and celebrate the lives of our veterans and fallen,” he said.
Eldon A. Woodie, the new director for Fort Bliss National Cemetery, said more than 1,000 kids from scouts, church groups and other volunteer organizations were out at the cemetery on Saturday, putting up miniature flags on more than 50,000 grave sites. Other volunteer groups came out and fed the kids hot dogs, punch and cookies.
That is an example of the patriotic spirit and volunteerism that helped make Monday’s event possible, Woodie said.
“At Fort Bliss National Cemetery, we are here for all the veterans and their spouses,” Woodie said. “We will treat them with honor, dignity and respect and will treat them with honor, dignity and respect every day.”
Lorenzo Pacheco, an El Paso native who served with the Marines during Vietnam, said Memorial Day is a way to “honor all our brothers who gave all.”
“Some of us gave some,” said Pacheco, who fought during the Tet Offensive. “But Memorial Day is for the fallen ones.”