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'He’s my hero': Gold Star families honor their loved ones at Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Wall

People gathered at the Veterans Memorial Wall in Downtown Jacksonville, remembering the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Memorial Day honors the over 1 million men and women who have died serving our country since 1861. That number becomes tangible when you talk to the families who have been left behind.

People gathered at the Veterans Memorial Wall in Downtown Jacksonville, remembering the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. For the Gold Star families, Memorial Day is about a single name.

It’s the first time Renes Perez has been to the ceremony in years.

“He’s my hero. He’s my personal hero," Perez said. "I was always proud of him. This was one more reason to be proud of him."

His son’s name is on the wall. 

In 2011, his son Gil Morales was killed in action. Perez used to come to the ceremony with his wife to honor their son. 

This is his first Memorial Day ceremony since his wife died a few years ago. He sits alone.

“Every single day we have to be grateful for the sacrifices they have done for our freedom," Perez said. 

A few rows down, Calvin Rockward III’s family grieves at their first Memorial Day without their son.

“Today is heartbreaking but it’s also joyful because of everyone," Brenda Rockward, his mother, said. "All the names in the wall. All the families that are here joining in to give thanks for those who served.”

Rockward III was killed 8 months ago in a training accident. He was 38.

“Seeing all the names on the wall, it just brings back just brings back what everyone sacrifices for this country," his father Calvin Rockward Jr. said. 

City of Jacksonville officials say four more names were added to the wall this year. Families crowded around the wall to find their loved ones name. 

It was a blue sky day for our Gold Star families. 

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