Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice: Memorial Day ceremony honors fallen heroes

Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice: Memorial Day ceremony honors fallen heroes

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - At Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, 128 flags fly high, each one tagged with the name and rank of a fallen hero.

They serve as the focus of this year's Memorial Day service.

"We think it's important to honor them every day, really, but today is a very special ceremony and service that we invite the public to join with us," said Mark Blankenship, the Executive Director of Llano Cemetery.

Beyond the music, speeches and cannons, the Avenue of Flags in Poppy Field became the heart of the service. Raising a flag for each honored individual, community members and families of the fallen came together for that moment.

Get the latest Amarillo news straight to your phone! Apple | Android

"It humbles me every time I get up on this stage and podium and look out at all of the people that come out to honor our veterans and so many volunteers that help us," said Blankenship.

For Blankenship, the memorial is personal for him, as he honors his father, a captain in the United States Army, now buried in Kansas.

"I have his flag here flying in the Avenue of Flags so even though I can't be with him on Memorial Day," said Blankenship, "I can still honor him by flying his flag here and remembering his service to our country."

Most recently, the cemetery also designated a new Veterans Garden for the fallen, known as the Field of Freedom. Patriots Plaza sits in the middle, honoring each of the five branches of the U.S. military.

"Various other things that we do for veterans certainly but to have a special section that's devoted specifically for them is just one of the many ways that we try to honor them and give them special recognition," said Blankenship.

For one local U.S. Air Force veteran, the day comes with a sense of responsibility.

"Because of all the times I have come here to present the flag to the next-of-kin for someone who has served and died, I feel a real responsibility to honor those people," said SMSgt. Larry Boyer, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

With that responsibility comes a powerful lesson to keep in mind.

"Memorial Day is all about those who have died in combat and we have a lot of those. We have way too many of those," said SMSgt. Boyer. "If we don't remember those, if we forget to honor those people who gave that last full measure then we start to lose the freedoms that they secured for us. It's important that we continue this year after year."

With that lesson, we are reminded that our freedom is not free, as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for years to come.

Copyright 2018 KFDA. All rights reserved.