Freedom isn't free. Across the nation, and here in central Alabama, we pause to remember our fallen military heroes. Men and women who gave their lives in defense of freedom. Many families chose to spend this day in quiet reflection near the final resting place of those who paid the ultimate price.
Some lost their loved ones in combat, while others remembered those who died as veterans. All needed a time to pause and remember the sacrifices made.
Ann Curl says Memorial Day will always be somber for her. Her father, Bernard Shepard, is buried at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. Spending time there on Memorial Day takes precedence over any other activity.
"He didn't talk much about being in the army, but my uncles did and said he had a lot of fun learning foreign languages," she said.
Curl's father didn't die while in service, but she hurts nonetheless, and sympathizes with the families of those who did.
"There's a reason why we get this day off, that we get to do this. Even if they don't come out to a cemetery or other things, just remember that there are people whose lives are changed," she said.
Throughout the cemetery, families consoled one another, often breaking into tears. Terry Schultz traveled from Louisiana to be with his family at his father's grave.
The idea of barbeques and pool parties doesn't bother him as long as the true meaning of the day isn't lost.
"For our family it's a time not just to do those things, but to remember our father on this particular day," said Schultz.
As an Army soldier, Christopher Cooper knows the reality of becoming a member of the U.S. Armed Forces means the ultimate sacrifice may be required. That's what he reflected on as he stood over his grandfather's grave.
"Just looking out here at all the families that honor fallen soldiers, it's a big meaning."