By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald

Stars and stripes snapped at half staff in front of Harker Heights City Hall at a Memorial Day ceremony. Meanwhile, volunteers combed the Killeen City Cemetery in search of veterans’ graves to decorate with flags.

Saturday was the kick off to Memorial Day weekend; however, instead of barbecue and celebrations, the morning started with a somber remembrance of the sacrifices made by veterans and the burden placed upon families.

“It’s a day to remember, not a day to do barbecue,” said Walter Brown, owner of Big Hoss BBQ and organizer of the flag laying. “It’s really a day to go out and remember the veterans who gave us the freedoms that we have.”

At 9 a.m., about 75 volunteers took maps and sought out about 1,280 graves to place flags. This was the event’s fourth year to take place.

“We adopted the cemetery a couple of years ago when we saw everyone was going to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and certainly no one was taking care of the older veterans,” Brown said. “We decided to adopt it.”

Laura Julius was one of the many volunteers who showed up to help with placing flags, bringing her son, Brooks, 8, and his friends.

“I gave him the choice,” Julius said. “I was worried if this was a little too heavy.”

Julius said Brooks’ father is on his fifth deployment in Iraq.

“We had discussed how Memorial Day is more of a commercial thing,” she said. “It seemed inappropriate to spend the whole weekend in celebration when so many people have sacrificed.”

Brooks was given the choice to either go to the Memorial Day parade in Harker Heights or to theKilleen cemetery to place flags, she said.

“I thought that it would be nice to the people who died and to respect them,” Brooks said. “I felt instead of going to a parade I wanted to come here and respect the people who died serving for us.”

Across town in Harker Heights, about 200 residents attended its Memorial Day ceremony about 10 a.m., part of a day of events planned for the city’s third annual Stars & Stripes Festival.

The day also featured a parade at 9 a.m. and a 5-kilometer run at 7 a.m.

U.S. Rep. John R. Carter, R-Round Rock, donned a mic as the headline speaker that morning at Harker Heights City Hall during its ceremony. He reminded the crowd of why Memorial Day holds importance.

“For the soldiers who died in combat that war is over,” he said. “For the family back at home, it never ends.”