Standing-room only as Houstonians honor our nation's fallen heroes

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by Marcelino Benito / KHOU 11 News & AP

KHOU.com & The Associated Press

Posted on May 26, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Updated Monday, May 26 at 1:31 PM

HOUSTON -- Thousands of Houstonians are among the millions paying tribute to those who have fought and died for our country.

A ceremony got underway at Houston National Cemetery early Monday under cloudy skies. It was standing-room only as thousands packed in for the service.

Gold Star Mothers, who lost their sons in war, were also in attendance.

The ceremony was marked with a rifle salute and bagpipes, both tributes to fallen and current soldiers.

There are more than 60,000 buried at the cemetery, and thanks to the hard work of volunteers over the weekend, a small American flag was placed at each tombstone.

It was a powerful ceremony meant to remind everyone that freedom isn’t free, and there is a price that only the bravest Americans are willing to pay.

“I’m here to honor the sacrifice of these heroes,” said Jeffrey Jacobi, who is the daughter of a veteran. “Everyone is a hero, whether they be decorated or not. They’re heroes.”

“It’s so heartwarming,” said Ramona Gallegos. “It really hits you. It hits you right in your heart.”

Meanwhile near Washington, President Barack Obama led the nation in commemorating Memorial Day, declaring the United States has reached "a pivotal moment" in Afghanistan with the end of war approaching.

Obama, who returned just hours earlier from a surprise visit with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, paid tribute to those lost in battle there and elsewhere over history. He called them "patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice" for their country.

The Arlington remembrance was duplicated in villages, towns, cities and counties across the country. There was a holiday weekend reunion of some of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen in upstate New York. More than 3,000 volunteers placed flags at the graves of 120,000 veterans at the Florida National Cemetery. And in Mississippi, the annual Vicksburg Memorial Day parade was being accompanied by a wreath-laying ceremony at Vicksburg National Cemetery.

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