KILLEEN — There are more than 7,300 service members buried at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. On Monday, Alexander Jasmin came to pay his respects to one.
1st Sgt. Mark Steven Campbell was Jasmin’s first sergeant during his tour in Iraq. Wearing his Stetson bearing his corporal stripes, Jasmin stood silently facing the grave stone remembering.
“I remember his sternness,” Jasmin said prior to a 10 a.m. ceremony, “and his humor.”
Jasmin, a member of 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, was wounded in Iraq and medically-retired from the Army. He served the Army in uniform from 2002-2006. He continues to serve today, working in the Transportation Office at Fort Hood’s Copeland Center. He felt it was his duty to visit the cemetery early Monday morning.
“I have mixed emotions,” he said, his eyes hidden behind reflective sun glasses. “It’s a solemn day.”
Following the presentation of the colors by a 1st Cavalry Division Honor Guard, the National Anthem and an opening prayer, hundreds gathered to hear the words of area leaders and lay wreaths honoring America’s fallen.
“There is no better place that I would rather be today than right here,” Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra said in his welcoming remarks, “because it represents who we are as a community … we are so grateful.”
Segarra was followed by Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith, who read a Memorial Day proclamation.
“This day is something that many of us carry through the whole year with us,” Smith said prior to delivering his proclamation. “We remember those that have passed on, fallen in the service to our nation. I spent almost 24 years on active duty in the Marine Corps and lost many great men and shipmates. They’re never far from my mind.”
The event’s keynote address was delivered by 1st Cav. Div. Commanding General Maj. Gen. Paul Calvert, who discussed how a history of service and sacrifice impacts the nation today.
“Memorial Day was first widely observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War Soldiers,” the general said. “It was named Decoration Day because Families typically remembered their loved ones by decorating gravesites with flowers or flags, a practice that continues to this very day.
“This is absolutely an amazing display of respect,” Calvert said, noting the volunteer efforts to adorn each gravesite with American flags. “Unfortunately, not everyone is able to visit the grave of a fallen service member on Memorial Day. However, everyone does have the ability, and can honor our fallen, by participating in the National Moment of Remembrance. I humbly ask everyone, regardless of where you are today at 3 p.m., to pause for one moment to reflect on and remember those Americans who died in service to our nation.”
Calvert reminded those gathered that in roughly a week’s time the nation will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, France, and the beginning of the end of the largest conflict of the 20th Century.
“The Soldiers on the Normandy beaches embodied our Army Values,” he said. “When (Gen. Dwight D.) Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, he said ‘The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.’
“Today, in particular,” the general concluded. “Our eyes remain upon them, as we remember the sacrifices that America’s children, siblings, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents made for this country, and the freedom that we enjoy today because of them.”
Following Calvert’s remarks, veterans and civic groups laid wreaths, an honor detail fired a 21-gun salute, and Spc. Paul Roberts, a trumpet player with the 1st Cav. Div. Band, played Taps near the conclusion of the ceremony.
“It gives me a sense of pride to be able to honor them,” Roberts, a native of Baytown, Texas, who has served with the First Team for nearly two years, said.
“My day starts here,” Jasmin said, “just trying to remember Top.”