MONTEVALLO, AL (WBRC) – At the Alabama National Cemetery, families navigate their way through rows of remembrance, stopping when they find their loss engraved in stone.
“I’m trying to feel their emotions and I don’t know if I can,” said Roy Brook.
Brook is not a veteran. He doesn’t have a family member who was killed in action, but he’s an American and there’s no prerequisite for gratitude.
“I had to be here. There’s no way I wouldn’t be here,” said Brook, holding a flagpole and American flag. "These guys deserve anything they can get, large or small.”
This Memorial Day looks unlike any other. Because of COVID-19, The National Cemetery Administration which oversees the Alabama National Cemetery, decided against public ceremonies. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort held a virtual service of remembrance.
“It’s very unlike [any other year]. I’m used to visiting and talking to a lot of people, I’m used to a big event here at the National Cemetery,” said Brook.
After a moment of silence, he said, “That’s OK. People are still coming out and visiting their loved ones.”
“Who’s the man up there?” asked a woman looking up at Brook. Her father, who fought in the Korean War, died in February.
The director of the cemetery spoke about Brook, but it was when he said, “he just loves our country,” the woman started wiping away tears.
Up on a hill overlooking the Alabama National Cemetery, Brook stands at attention and while keeping watch over the graves of heroes, pledges to never forget.
“I see freedom, I see freedom because of these folks,” said Brook. “I just love showing respect.”