Those who made 'ultimate sacrifice' honored at Central Texas ceremonies

Ceremonies across the nation and Central Texas honored those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country Monday.

"This day and I hope every day…we as Texans and we as Americans say 'thank you, we love you and we're grateful for the country you have given us,'" said U.S. Senator Ted Cruz Monday morning at a Memorial Day ceremony in Williamson County.

The fallen were also honored at a ceremony in Pflugerville.

At the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, American flags are placed at the graves of soldiers.  

"From Valley Forge to Afghanistan, our brave soldiers have fought and gave all so that we may live in freedom," said Judge Jeff Rose, Chief Justice of the Third Court of Appeals. “At its heart, Memorial Day is a day for us to remember and give thanks to those men and women along with their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.”

The Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution gathered to honor Lt. Robert Rankin and Sgt. Stephen Williams, the only Revolutionary War soldiers buried in the cemetery according to the groups.

"About a month ago I did the Ancestry DNA thing and got my results back and did a lot of research and found that I'm a descendant of the Williams family," said Beth Rowley.  

Rowley says she came to the cemetery on Memorial Day to see Williams' grave, not realizing there was a ceremony taking place.

"I did a lot of research and just kind of decided this would be a good day to come out here and all this was going on and I had no idea this was going on so this was awesome," Rowley said.  

Rowley has found a new family.  

"That's an amazing coincidence, somebody brought her over and said 'you need to meet her, she's one of your cousins,'" said Kathi Thomas.

Thomas chairs the Memorial Day service for the local chapter of D.A.R.  

"Generally Memorial Day is for those who gave their life when they were in the service and that is incredibly special," Thomas said. “Both of these men survived their service but they were there at the beginning, they were some of the ones that helped us get the original freedom that we have today.”

Williams is her fifth great-grandfather. He also fought in the War of 1812 and the Texas War of Independence.

"Just a tough old bird. He never quit fighting, he was always there and when something needed doing, he did it. Just somebody I'm very proud to be descended from," Thomas said.

The Daughters and Sons also read aloud the names of those who had passed since last Memorial Day, including President George H.W. Bush.

"This is what this day is about and I love it when people bring their children and they see that this is about sacrifice and about really making a difference in the world," Thomas said.