GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - U.S. Navy installations around the country celebrated the fourth annual Bells Across America event on Thursday as a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Fallen servicemen and women from all branches of the military were remembered.
It's said that normally the sound of a bell signifies an arrival, but at Bells Across America, it's a solemn chime for the fallen.
"Today’s ceremony is really Memorial Day for this community, and when I say this community, I mean inside and outside the gates, because we are a close-knit community,” said Capt. William Whitmire, Naval Construction Battalion Center commanding officer.
The bell chimed 84 times at the Seabee Base, once for all 80 names read by Long Beach Mayor George Bass and Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott and four times for the countless others who died serving our country.
In attendance was 96-year-old Paul Haplea, a Seabee veteran who was a Seaman 1st class back in World War II. He was there when the U.S. flag was raised at Iwo Jima.
"I got in the service, and my dad said 'Paul, this is your country, you protect it.' I said I will, and I did,” Haplea said.
For the Gold Star military families that came to the service, Bells Across America served as a chance to grieve but also to remember with pride their loved ones who served with honor and integrity.
"Those that came before us are going to be those that are going define what we’ll become,” Whitmire said.”