SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

The men and women who have served in the military were remembered today in Santa Maria as a part of the annual Memorial Day ceremony. A couple of people who were at the podium spoke of their experience losing family members who were in the military.

"He made me proud all the time," said Ernie Alvarez of his son, Kenny. "He was good at what he did. He was a 100-percent soldier."

Ernie Alvarez will never forget the day, late last August, when he got the news that no father wants to hear. His son, Kenny, a 23-year old Army specialist and Santa Maria native, had been killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

"You think about it, but you don’t think it’s going to happen," said Ernie. "I still remember the day the 2 soldiers came to my house and knocked on the door. It’s still so real."

Kenny was given a hero’s welcome when his body was returned home in September. The outpouring of community support comforted the Alvarez family, but the pain didn’t go away.

"It was very difficult. It hurt," said Ernie. "You wanted your son to be there with you and he wasn’t there."

At today’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Santa Maria Cemetery, Ernie stood at the podium, recalling the stories his son told him about his experience as a soldier and asking the community to honor those who sacrificed their lives just as Kenny did.

"Today is their day. The cost of freedom isn’t free, that’s the bottom line. There is a price you have to pay for freedom, and the soldiers that have passed away have paid that ultimate price."