AUSTIN - The playing of taps has been heard countless times at the Texas State Cemetery, however, Saturday morning it was played not during a soldier's funeral, but rather to remember all the American veterans who have served their country.
"We truly can never fully repay the debt we owe to all of the heroes who call this location their final resting place," said Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) during the ceremony. "But we can honor their service and their sacrifice by blanketing their resting places with wreaths of remembrance."
Wreaths Across America and a host of volunteers marked the soldiers graves with holiday wreaths for the second year in a row.
But it was the first time Air Force Captain Russell "Bear" Barnett's grave got a wreath.
"I was nine years old when he was shot down, and at the time the government didn't give us any information. It was a classified mission," said Barnett's daughter Debra Barnett Coffey.
Barnett's mission was in Laos during the Vietnam War in 1966. He finished three dive-bombing attacks and on the fourth pass his plane was shot down by enemy gunfire. His plane crashed into the side of a mountain and caught fire. Troops were unable to recover his body at the time.
After 51 years and several recovery missions, Captain Barnett was recovered.
"This year, on April the 7th, 2017, he was repatriated and buried here in the Texas State Cemetery," said Coffey.
It was 51 years to the day that he died.
Coffey was invited to lay the wreath in honor of the Air Force and also place one on her father's grave.
"There [have] been a lot of Christmases that have been missed with my dad," she said holding back tears. "It was always a very special holiday for us and so we're spending Christmas together this year after 51 years."
All 2,486 veterans buried in the Texas State Cemetery will have a wreath laid on their grave and their name called by the person placing it as a small way to say thank you to America's heroes.
"With these wreaths we show that we will never forget the price they paid so that we can forever remain free," said Abbott.
Across the country, 1.5 million wreaths were placed Saturday.
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