Vietnam veteran Benny Cervantes bowed his head as the bugler sounded the unmistakeably mournful melody of Taps on Monday evening.
Cervantes, 65, came to the 85th Annual Mount Olivet Memorial Day Service in Fort Worth to make sure his seven friends lost in battle were not forgotten.
“We need to remember them, so they don’t think they are left alone, and know that we are here to recognize them,” Cervantes said.
The standing-room-only crowd packed tight into the Mount Olivet Chapel for the service, with people overflowing in the outside lobby, peeking in through windows and some even standing outside.
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The service, normally held outside in the historic Mount Olivet Cemetery, was moved indoors because of the potential for stormy weather Monday night.
Several portions of the program had to be canceled, including the dove release and the motorcade to East Northside Drive Bridge, where a brief naval service honoring U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine war dead is normally held.
But for Cervantes and his girlfriend, Esther Cordova, 72, the service was still beautiful. Cordova also came to the service to honor her nephew, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq.
She said, “the stories they told” about the service men and women who have died was the most touching part of the hour-long ceremony that included performances by the First Christian Church Chancel Choir, three volleys of rifle fire by the Lone Star Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans Honor Guard and the ceremonial “placing of the wreaths.”
“If we don’t pass on the stories, whatever is happening now won’t be important later, and kids will take what we have for granted,” Cordova said, choking back tears after the service.
U.S. Navy Captain Gilbert J. “Gil” Miller, the commanding officer of the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, spoke about a fellow sailor and friend he lost during the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and how a new generation will continue to lead “the most powerful military in the world.”
“The American military has sent many powerful messages to those who perpetrated the attack. Bin Laden took at least one message to the chest and another to the head,” Miller said about Sept. 11. “As we gather this evening, firefighters, police, service members and civilians from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are protecting and defending this country.”
Services across N. Texas
The ceremony at Mount Olivet was one of many held across North Texas as people took the time to remember those who have died serving their country. Special services were also conducted at Oakwood Cemetery and Laurel Land Memorial Park in Fort Worth, Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park in Colleyville and the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas.
At Moore Memorial Gardens in Arlington, people placed flowers on the graves of loved ones outside before filling the pews inside the funeral home after light rain forced the ceremony indoors.
Issuing an official proclamation, Mayor Robert Cluck called the soldiers “the best of America” and said we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service.
The service also honored veterans of South Vietnam who fought alongside the U.S. armed forces. Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen said the Vietnam War remains on the minds of many.
“To those who truly understand Vietnam, this was just a battle in a long struggle for freedom, justice and liberty,” Nguyen said before the South Vietnamese Anthem played.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was the keynote speaker at the DFW National Cemetery, where the tribute to fallen service men and women included the sounding of Taps and the placement of wreaths.
Staff writer Sarah Bahari contributed to this report.