NEW YORK – From local parades to a presidential visit at Arlington, the nation is observing Memorial Day Monday.
As CBS2’s John Dias reports, it may be the unofficial start of summer, but more importantly, it’s a day of remembrance, honoring military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice.
While many will be barbecuing and beaching it, others want everyone to take a moment to remember what this day is really all about..
One veteran told Dias Memorial Day is not necessarily a sad or happy day, but a reflective day.
The sounds of “Taps” echoed on the pier next to the Intrepid, and the laying of Memorial Wreaths on the Hudson River were just some of the somber reminders of the true meaning of Memorial Day. The holiday has a long history.
“We have been doing this celebration since the Civil War,” one person said.
Monday morning, current and former service members, their loved ones, and local dignitaries, including Adams and Hochul honored the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, who gave their lives to defend our nation.
“Only country with the word ‘dream.’ There is no German dream, polish dream, but, darn it, there is an American dream,” Adams said.
“The foundation of our country will always be that worthy fight,” Hochul said.
Several said there is a phrase that can never be spoken enough.
“To use an old cliché, and a new cliché, freedom is not free. It’s the greatest country in the world. We had to fight to defend it and protect it,” said veteran Richard Adams.
And many made the ultimate sacrifice – sacrifices often forgotten – but following generations are making sure they are not. Like Fort Lee resident Richard Adams, who served in the Navy for four years.
“We must always remember them. Every day of the week, no just Memorial Day,” Adams said.
Dozens of active members unfurled a 100-foot American flag and an aircraft flyover in missing man formation made the day extra special.
“Kind of wells up inside of me, makes me extremely honored to wear the cloth of our nation and to be a part of a long tradition of those who have fought for the freedom of the country,” said Commander Daryl Claude of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
Two years ago, the event was virtual due to the pandemic. Then last year; there were certain restrictions. But this year, Memorial Day commemorations are back In full force.
It’s a beautiful reminder of why we love this country so much.
These heroes are also being honored this week during Fleet Week, which includes U.S. Army Sgt. Mario Nelson, a Haitian immigrant from Brooklyn, who decided to go from the reserves to active duty after 9/11. CBS2 met his widow Sunday outside the Intrepid.
“I want people to stop and remember how these wonderful people who are willing to serve, fight for our country, and although, some come home, some does not come back home,” said Gold Star spouse Mecca Nelson.
Mario Nelson died in Iraq in 2006 at age 26, leaving Mecca Nelson and their daughter behind.
“I think about him. I know he’s smiling down at me,” Mecca Nelson said.
And the brave people of the armed forces who died for our freedom will also be honored across the Tri-State Area during many parades, which includes one of Long Island’s largest Memorial Day parades in Freeport. Thousands of local Long Islanders will participate and line Merrick Road, and Gov. Phil Murphy attended a ceremony at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation in Holmdel, N.J.
On the Upper West Side, military veterans, support organizations and council members gathered at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to honor all who served and sacrificed. The monument itself commemorates Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. It was unveiled on Memorial Day in 1902, which at the time was called “Decoration Day.” People used to pay tribute by decorating the graves of fallen troops.