BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They came to honor and remember those Americans who sacrificed all for the sake of freedom. A large crowd gathered for the annual Memorial Day observance at Biloxi National Cemetery on Monday morning.
Thousands of gravestones and small flags provided a fitting backdrop for the solemn service.
"We assemble this morning to humbly honor those who have given their lives for these United States of America," said Lt. Joseph Daniel Johnson during the invocation.
"Lord we ask for your guidance and wisdom in how we remember them," he prayed.
Rows of flags and stones offered a vivid reminder of the sacrifice which is saluted on this day of remembrance.
The freedom to enjoy beaches and barbecues on this holiday weekend came with a cost.
"We enjoy the lives we lead because of generations of young Americans who gave their lives so that all of us could live in freedom and prosperity," said Margaret Ayres, director of the Biloxi National Cemetery.
Chris Moore's powerful voice once again echoed through this sacred space with the singing of our National Anthem.
Many of those who gathered to remember, wore the uniform themselves and recognize all too well what freedom demands.
"Losing one of my airmen, one of my own, brought home what Memorial Day means," said Brigadier General Patrick Higby.
The commander of Keesler's 81st training wing made his message very personal. He recalled the death in Afghanistan, three years ago, of tech Sgt. Kristoffer Solesbee.
"Leading Army soldiers through ambushes of improvised explosive devices. He didn't sign up for that. But he went. And he did his duty well," said Gen. Higby.
Tech Sgt. Solesbee joined the legion of other Americans struck down on the battlefield. They are the reason for this Memorial Day observance.
"We need to be worthy of the sacrifice of Kristoffer Solesbee and the 1.3 million other Americans that have paid the ultimate price," said Gen. Higby.
This day of remembrance is also personal for Emily Crowder, a member of the Gold Star wives. Her husband was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, when she got a dreaded phone call in 1968.
"My husband was killed less than a month on his second tour. And I remember to this day, I said are you sure he's just not missing?" she recalled.
Veterans say the annual service is one they would not miss.
"Seeing all these graves, the sacrifice that Americans have made. I've got some friends out here," said WWII veteran, Jeff Haynie.