County veterans and residents were invited to a special ceremony held outside the Jim Wells County Courthouse in honor of Memorial Day early Sunday afternoon.
The ceremony began with the presentation of colors by cadets with the Alice High School JROTC, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem.
Commissioner Pct. 1 Margie Gonzalez read the invocation, followed by a 21-gun salute from the United Veterans Burial Association of Alice and the playing of "Taps."
Alice Mayor Larry Martinez gave some welcome remarks during the ceremony, thanking the veterans present for all they have done for the country.
"We're here to honor our service members and remember the sacrifices they made in the honor of the freedom that we hold today," Martinez said.
Martinez talked about the sacrifices that veterans have made in numerous wars, and said everyone is here today because of them.
"I think nowadays a lot of us take a lot of it for granted," he said. "And that's something that we really need to stop and have some reflection about. Don't take things for granted anymore. Take things for what they are, and the things as they are is because people fought for us. People gave us that freedom, and that is something that we should not take lightly any day."
County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz also spoke during the Memorial Day ceremony, echoing Mayor Martinez sentiments that people should not take veterans' sacrifices for granted.
"They fought for this nation, and we have to sit here and appreciate it," he said. "They put their lives on the line for us, and it's very important that we recognize them, not only today but every day, in Texas, in Jim Wells County and the whole nation."
County Veterans Service Officer Roberto Juarez then introduced the ceremony's guest speaker, AHS JROTC instructor Msgt. Mary Lane, who served with the U.S. Air Force for 25 years.
Msgt. Lane said she was humbled by the invitation to speak at the ceremony and thanked Juarez for the opportunity. She spoke about the origins of Memorial Day, which she said was originally declared to honor those who fought and died during the Civil War before becoming a national holiday in 1971.
"When I was a kid, Memorial Day to me was a three-day weekend," she said. "Barbecues, swimming, hanging out with the family, stuff like like. You never realize the enormity of what Memorial Day means until you put on this uniform and you walk out onto an American cemetery in a foreign country and see tens of thousands of crosses.
"And you realize that a majority of those men and women who are buried there joined the military out of a sense of patriotism, because our country was under attack, and they knew that it was their duty to go and fight so that we would be able to claim our freedom."
Msgt. Lane said she does not think those veterans ever thought they would never return home. She spoke about visiting the cemeteries in France and Luxembourg, walking the sacred grounds and performing in ceremonies as a member of the USAF Honor Guard.
"And I felt humbled," she said. "I never joined the military thinking that it was my patriotic duty. It took putting me into uniform, it took me doing those ceremonies, funerals for fallen veterans in a foreign country, for me to realize how important this uniform is and that I wear it with pride.
"Today, we celebrate those who have fallen and died so that we can make our choices and life free in this country. And so tomorrow, all I ask is that when you set up your barbecue grill and you prepare to spend your day with your family and your friends, please remember to give thanks and rejoice in the men and women who made freedom possible."