Each year, on the final Monday in May, Americans honor the men and women who died serving their country in all branches of the armed forces. But for one local family, this federal holiday isn't an annual, one-day affair.
"Every single day of our lives is Memorial Day," said Carl Tomlinson Sr., father of Sgt. Joshua Abram Tomlinson who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan along with four other soldiers on May 18, 2010.
"We cannot let anyone forget what these kids have done for all of us," Tomlinson said. "That is why we put up a sign on (Interstate 20) for Josh and for Joshua Madden. That shows a lot about Louisiana, that they recognize their sacrifice."
Tomlinson said Memorial Day carries a special meaning for many families, and those who have lost a soldier, sailor or Marine also need to be honored.
"I and another Gold Star father will be at the Northwest Louisiana Veterans' Cemetery (in Keithville), and we will present a flag to the Gold Star families and place a wreath in their honor," he said. "This will be in recognition of those who have sacrificed on the altar of freedom."
Sgt. Tomlinson, a 2004 graduate of Lakeside High School, decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in the aftermath of one of this nation's greatest tragedies.
"My son was influenced by 9/11," Tomlinson Sr. said. "He was just 19 years old and he said, 'Daddy, that's wrong. It's just wrong.' He decided he was going into the military and it cost him his life. And don't forget the four others that died with him."
Tomlinson said it is important to uphold the values for which his son and generations of others died to protect and ensure.
"A soldier fights for his family, loved ones and for those who stand beside him in combat," he said. "We have to understand how important it is for us to uphold the values they fought and died for; freedoms that we will defend also. And we should defend the memory and honor of those who died."
Tomlinson said soldiers who serve together in combat forge a very special relationship – one that goes beyond friendship.
"You fight for the ones you're close to. The unit in which they serve is a family, and they know how it feels to lose a family member," he said. "Several of the guys Josh served with call me on May 18 each year. They share our loss."
Tomlinson said he now understands more clearly how necessary it is to stand together against people like the protesters from Westboro Baptist Church. Demonstrators associated with the church have appeared at funerals of numerous casualties of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with signs, some of which say "Thank God for dead soldiers."
"I became a member of the Patriot Guard Riders and I now realize how important it is to stand in line against people like the Westboro Baptist Church," he said.
Casualties of war come in all shapes and sizes, and cross gender lines. Tomlinson said honoring all soldiers, not just the fallen, will help keep this country strong.
"We recently went to a 19-year-old girl's funeral in Prescott, Ark. She was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device). It is going to take all of us, all Americans all fighting for our country's freedoms," he said. "These are freedoms which can't be kept from us. If one part breaks down, all parts crumble."