BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A large crowd gathered at Biloxi National Cemetery on Monday for a solemn Memorial Day observance.
Thousands of graves, marked by white stones and adorned with small flags, served as the backdrop for the annual ceremony.
It is always a somber remembrance at the national cemetery where some 17,000 veterans are buried. A patriotic and thankful crowd listened as the commander of Keesler Air Force base spoke about "service before self," humility and honor
"We give you thanks for those who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. May they rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon them," said Rev. Eugene Robinson, who delivered the invocation.
Pride and patriotism abound on this holiday. Americans take time to salute the sacrifice of brave men and women.
"Visits to the cemetery. Flowers on graves. Or even silent tribute mark the day with dignity and reverence. This is a day of reflection," said Charlie Barnes, with VFW Post 6731.
Keesler's commander reminded the crowd of the humility and service that set apart those who offered their lives for freedom's sake.
"Service before self. Their purpose was not individual glory. It was for the squadron, the platoon, the patrol, the ship. That is why they served. And that is why we serve today," said Brig. General Andrew Mueller, commander of the 81st Training Wing.
The traditional placing of wreaths beneath the flag pole signaled a moment of reflection. Marine Corps veteran Harry Sharp was proud to help with the wreath procession and display.
"It's very important we remember the folks that have gone before us that made the ultimate sacrifice and were willing to give their life for this country," he said.
Joe Rodriguez comes from a family where many have worn the uniform. He wants his young children to understand and appreciate what freedom so often requires.
"The opportunities we have in this country because of the service men that have come before us," he said.
"As citizens of the United States, it is fitting that we take time today to recognize those individuals. Because we must ask ourselves: If we don't, who will?" said Commander Mueller
"And may we never fair to remember the awesome cost of freedom which we enjoy," Rev. Robinson prayed.
In his remarks, Keesler's commander also recalled the words etched into a monument at Arlington National Cemetery.
They read: We here, highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain