The families and friends of the 1,953 service members laid to rest in the Omaha National Cemetery likely see Memorial Day as more than a long weekend of camping and barbecues.

Ivonne Womack placed flowers at her husband’s grave with her sister-in-law Shirley Womack on Monday just before the cemetery’s Memorial Day ceremony.

James Womack, 32, was shot and killed in 2017 in a road-rage slaying near the intersection of 60th and L Streets. The father of three served three tours in Iraq.

Shirley Womack described the day as difficult to get through.

“It’s hard to deal with this day. My brother loved serving his country, and he’s no longer here,” she said. “It’s hard. That’s the best way I can put it.”

Ivonne Womack said her husband enjoyed being in the Army and was proud to serve his country.

“This day brings up a lot of memories,” she said. “At the same time, it brings family together to honor and remember our loved ones.”

Gregory Smith didn’t know the Womacks, but he stopped to help them place flowers at James Womack’s grave.

Smith said he came to pay tribute to his wife, Diana, who served in the Air Force and died in January from brain cancer.

Remembering the fallen was the goal of Cindy Van Bibber, the cemetery director who was one of the organizers of Monday’s ceremony, one of many across the region.

“We’re here to remember, honor and respect those who have gone on before us,” Van Bibber said. “To those who are laid to rest here, we want to honor them as well.”

Loved ones made their way across the hilltop for Monday’s ceremony, which featured speakers including Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and U.S. Reps. Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry, both Nebraska Republicans.

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrew Taylor was keynote speaker.

“The National Archives record that 318 Nebraskans died during the Korean War, 396 during the Vietnam War and 670 in World War II,” Taylor said. “Some of those men and women are laid to rest right here in Omaha National Cemetery.”

Taylor’s speech was followed by the raising of the flag from half staff to full staff.