GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Veterans and families gathered at the Marshall County courthouse in downtown Guntersville Monday morning for a Memorial Day ceremony where the message was clear: the day wasn't a day for celebration, but for remembering.
At the start of the ceremony, the mood was somber as dozens of Marshall County veterans, parents, and children created one voice, reciting the words we all know by heart.
The ceremony, held every year in historic downtown Guntersville, reflected the respectful attitude that stems from Monday's holiday; a holiday that a three-day weekend at times makes the designation easy to forget.
"To me it's a sad day. I think back and I remember my buddies, my comrades, who didn't come home," said Walt Dempster, who is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, "Or, if they came home, they came home in a box, or a body bag."
"It's to memorialize the men and women that have actually paid the ultimate sacrifice to help protect our country," said Kay Gedling, Army National Guard retired.
Speakers, including Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar, remembered the countless men and women who died and reiterated how Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember them.
"It's not about a three-day holiday, or a picnic, or going to the beach, or going to the mountains, and don't get me wrong, I like BBQs, I like the beach, and I like the mountains, but that's not today," said Dempster.
As the simple musical notes of mourning and respect rang out over the hushed crowd, a group of veterans lowered the flag to conclude the ceremony.
"Freedom is not free," Gedling said, "People do have to pay that ultimate sacrifice sometimes so that we can have the free nation that we have."