Soldiers, families honor price of freedom


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on July 4, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 4 at 6:45 PM

AUSTIN -- The solemn sounds of Amazing Grace and Taps accompany a sacred ceremony at the Texas Capitol. 
On the nation's birthday, several dozen gathered to honor the sacrifice of its sons and daughters who died to defend it. 
"We're losing 15-30 soldiers from Texas alone a month," said Staff Sgt. Matt Ricks with the organization Iron Soldiers. "People tend to forget that when they wake up in the mornings, when they have their coffee and look at their e-mails." 
Following the Iron Soldiers from her home in Amarillo was Hope Billings, the mother of Army Sgt. Robert Billings, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan this past October. 
"For me, this ceremony is to honor my son and all the other kids that were lost," Hope Billings told KVUE.
Billings was joined by the family of 21-year old Army Spc. Ember Alt of Killeen, who died during a clash with Taliban forces in Afghanistan last month. Both soldiers were remembered Thursday in a ceremony known as the Battlefield Cross.
"The Battlefield Cross has a pair of boots to signify the final march into battle," explained Sgt. Archie Sharp, who founded Iron Soldiers. "A set of dog tags and a helmet to identify the soldier, and an inverted weapon to signify a time of prayer."
On this day celebrating freedom and independence, it's a moment to reflect on its price.
"It's important that as a state, we as a whole people, understand that we are still fighting a war," said Ricks. "We're still losing soldiers and losing lives on foreign soil. We keep the those wars on foreign soil for the purpose of not having to fight them here in America every day." 
A solemn reminder that more than 238 years since the first patriots at the Battle of Concord gave all for a nation not yet born, Americans are still giving all to protect it. 

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