AUSTIN, Texas — A Memorial Day service held in Austin, Texas, included recognition of the sacrifice made by fallen soldier, PFC Joel Ramirez of Waxahachie.
Ramirez was killed April 16 when his vehicle was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan while deployed on a mission for Operation Enduring Freedom.
In addition to the 22-year-old Ramirez, fellow soldiers Spc. Paul J. Atim, 27 of Green Bay, Wis. and Spc. Charles J. Wren, 25, of Beeville, Texas, died as a result of the attack.
House Resolution 1974, filed by state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, honored Ramirez’s memory, describing the death of “this valiant soldier” as “an immeasurable loss.”
The son of Irma and Chano Ramirez, Joel Ramirez was born in Fall River Mills, Calif., moving with his family to Waxahachie in 2001 and graduating in 2007 from Waxahachie High School, where he was a member of the varsity soccer team. The resolution notes that he joined the U.S. Army in 2009, placing first in his unit in accuracy as a machine gunner and in physical fitness.
“This brave young Texan was known for his dedication to his family, his infectious good humor, his love of animals and his talent as an artist,” Pitts’ resolution reads. “Americans owe a profound debt to our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen, whose sacrifices are deserving of our deepest respect and gratitude; through his unwavering dedication to duty, Joel Ramirez embodied the highest ideals of the United States armed forces and those who knew him will forever hold his memory close in their hearts.”
The service was held in the chamber of the House of Representatives, with family members and friends of Ramirez among the large crowd in attendance.
Gov. Rick Perry was the keynote speaker, saying, in part, “ … we will continue to call upon the best and brightest to stand between us and those who would do us harm and join the long line that takes up arms to defend others.
“Many of them, like many I’ve visited with over the last decade, will come home facing long roads back from debilitating injuries – some of the injuries visible and some not,” Perry said. “All too many will not come home at all.”
In recognizing the fallen soldiers, Perry also extended condolences to the loved ones left behind.
“It can be no easy thing to balance admiration for your fallen warrior with the realities of a life that continues to unfold, one challenging day after another,” he said. “Please know that the people of Texas genuinely appreciate the service and sacrifice of our military personnel and lift up their survivors in our thoughts and prayers.”
Perry recalled the words of President Lincoln in writing a letter about 150 years ago to a mourning mother: “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
In closing, Perry offered words of encouragement, saying, “In the days to come, I encourage you to live your life fully because you know that each day is precious and be assured that the cause for which your loved ones fought and died is still a just and noble cause.
“All of us in Texas must endeavor to live our lives in a fashion worthy of the sacrifices of your loved ones,” he said. “May God bless you and, through you, may he continue to bless the great state of Texas.”
Remarks also were made during the service by Speaker of the House Joe Straus, state Reps. Joe Pickett, Ralph Sheffield and George Lavender and state Sens. Juan Hinojosa, Steve Ogden and Leticia Van De Putte.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, whose district includes Ellis County and who retired from the Army after being seriously burned in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon, helped read off the 96 names of Texans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also assisting in reading the names were state Sen. Craig Estes and state Reps. Leo Berman and Dan Flynn.
The Texas Army National Guard presented the colors, did a cannon salute and played “Taps.”
The national anthem was sung by Lt. Col. Deon M. Green, who also sang “Amazing Grace” during the ceremony.
Clearing her throat and wiping her eyes before stepping up to the podium, Green said, “I may need a little help singing this. Because as the people I serve with know, there but by the grace of God go I.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.