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'It's important to remember them as long as we can'

May 30, 2011 at 12:30 a.m.
Updated May 31, 2011 at 12:31 a.m.

Harrison Raska attends the Memorial Day ceremony in DeLeon Plaza on Monday.

Isidore Ozuna walked carefully across De Leon Plaza to take his seat for the Memorial Day celebration.

Ozuna, a veteran of World War II, served on the USS Colorado during the war. He walked with a cane, but his mustard-colored veterans cap perched at a jaunty angle on his head and the medals pinned to his chest gleamed in the sun.

"I knew a lot of men who were killed, and I believe it's important to remember them as long as we can," Ozuna said.

More than 100 people, mostly veterans, gathered in De Leon Plaza to celebrate on the morning of Memorial Day. The names of veterans who have died in the past year were read aloud. Marvin Lockhart, II, stepped forward, ringing a bell and saluting after each veterans group finished reading their list of names.

Lockhart served in the Air Force during Vietnam. He said he feels it is important to take time to honor people who have served.

"If these men and women hadn't gone out and given their all, we wouldn't be able to do the things we do and enjoy the freedoms we enjoy in this country," Lockhart said.

The sun was shining down as people paused to honor fallen veterans. Each veterans group placed a wreath next to the gazebo. District Judge Stephen Williams gave the address. A firing squad shot three volleys, and the solemn notes of Taps rang out in the town square during the ceremony.

Don Baker smiled down at his granddaughter, Madison Baker, 8, as the names of the veterans who have died in the past year rang out De Leon Plaza for the annual celebration.

Baker brought his granddaughter to the ceremony to help her understand what Memorial Day is all about.

"It's about people who fought in the war and died," she said, proudly.

Memorial Day is a special holiday for Baker. It's a day to honor fallen veterans, but the holiday also has personal significance for Baker.

"It's a day where you think back to all of the people you knew who died," Baker said. " I stop and remember them, wonder what they might have amounted to."

Baker served in the Army during Vietnam. He and two cousins went into the service together. His cousin, Terrel Rawlinson, a helicopter pilot, was only 20 years old when he died. A high school friend was killed two weeks after arriving in Vietnam. He was 19 years old.

"I think it's important to remember. If we don't, who will?" Baker said.

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