Gov. Nathan Deal is taking a few minutes today to remember the 22 Georgia soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past year.
Lt. Col. Kevin Jarrard, commandant of Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, will give the keynote address at the ceremony under the Gold Dome and "remind Georgia residents that freedom isn't free."
"There is a price that has been paid, and I plan to talk about the sacrifices of Georgia," Jarrard said Wednesday. "It's humbling and awe-inspiring to look at the list of names."
When Deal's office contacted Jarrard about speaking during the state's Memorial Day ceremony, he accepted immediately.
"When you read the names over the course of the year, the magnificence of the sacrifice is lost," he said. "Part of the ceremony is accounting for that and noting the precious price for which peace and freedom is bought. It made me tremble when I reflected on the immensity of the sacrifices that have been made."
Though Jarrard has participated in Memorial Day events in the past, this is his first as a speaker.
"I'm very humbled and honored at the opportunity to speak, and words certainly fail us at times like these," he said. "The responsibility is a weighty one, and you're unable to adequately communicate appreciation to the families of the fallen heroes while reminding those of us among the living that the price that has been paid is immense."
Jarrard may use a few notes, but he doesn't plan to talk from a scripted speech.
"I have reflected and spent quite a bit of time thinking, but I will speak from the heart," he said. "I will certainly speak to what I've been privileged to see with my own eyes and how those members of the fallen have inspired us to live better lives."
The 11 a.m. ceremony will feature Chaplain Blair Davis of the Georgia National Guard reading the names of the fallen. The ceremony also will feature Brig. Gen. Phil Browning and Col. William Cain of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee.
Fort Stewart's 3rd Infantry Division brass quintet will play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning of the ceremony, and Spc. Matt Hensen of the quintet will play taps after Jarrard's speech.
Jarrard hopes the academy's cadets will hear his words as well.
"Young boys and men tend to be shortsighted and don't see the long-term view. It will help them to understand how precious the gift of life is and how dearly the freedom we all take for granted has been purchased," he said. "The one thing we always hope the cadets hear us saying when we speak about fallen heroes is that what we do counts."