JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many people started Saturday morning by paying homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the United States.
The annual Memorial Day Observance Ceremony was held at the Jacksonville National Cemetery, which is something that has taken place every year since 2009.
The ceremony honored people like U.S. Army sergeant William Joshua Rechenmacher, who was killed in combat in 2007.
“I miss his smile,” said Joanne Gutcher, who is Rechenmacher’s mother. “He loved his job. He loved what he was doing. He told me once: He would rather fight them over there than over here.”
“I was really proud,” said Rechenmacher’s stepfather, Ron Gutcher.
That Gold Star family was among many others and veterans on sacred ground Saturday morning to honor those lost protecting America.
Sgt. Rechenmacher was from Jacksonville.
He was killed by a roadside bomb in January 2007 during his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was only 24 years old.
“At that point that was the deadliest time of the war,” Joanne said. “It has been a rough journey, but you learn to deal with it better than it was in the beginning.”
There were several symbolic gestures at the observance ceremony including a 21-gun salute, the playing of TAPS, a flyover and more than 10 wreaths laid. Those were all ways to let people know fallen servicemembers are not forgotten.
Joe Snowberger is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and was the keynote speaker.
“Defending liberty is an action. Not a feeling,” Snowberger said. “Their actions were providing our freedom and defending our liberties. Each individual left an irreplaceable hole in the heart and lives of their surviving families, friends, and communities.”
Those like Rechenmacher, who is a Jacksonville hero. Jacksonville hero. He did not hesitate to put his life on the line to help others.
“It is very comforting,” Ron said of his stepson’s sacrifice.
“Remember the ones that selflessly gave their lives for this country,” Joanne said. “Not everybody is willing to do that.”