NORTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) – From the nation’s capital to South Florida, people across the United States stopped Monday to remember those that have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
At the Veterans Tribute Tower in North Miami, Memorial Day took on a special significance for those in attendance as the sound of “Taps” slowly played.
“We don’t honor them enough,” said veteran Walter Heinzinger. “They’ve done a lot for this country, and people take it for granted. They just assume we have what we have because we have it. We have what we have because the military has fought for what we have.”
Airman Joseph Mintz has been in the service for two years but knows exactly what it is he fights for and what others should remember the millions of have fallen in defense of their country.
“This day is a day to honor those who have given their lives so that we could have the freedoms we have today,” said airman Mintz. “To remember and to let them know we will never forget how much they have done for us and how much they mean to us.”
In Fort Lauderdale, Vietnam War veteran Bill Vasquet has buried several of his fellow soldiers and said that the United States is a nation “that’s based on freedom and the rest of the world deserves that freedom.”
“These guys [his fellow troops] have done what they needed to do and done what they should have done as far as I’m concerned, and it’s just wonderful that they’ve done it, and that’s the thing to remember,” said Vasquet.
Vasquet’s fellow veteran, Thoman Burgess, said there are simple things Americans can do every day to honor those in service.
“What people could do and should do is if they see a veteran say ‘Thank you for your service,’ and shake their hands,” said Burgess. “They can also visit a cemetery, a veteran in a cemetery, and say a little prayer or at least a moment of silence to honor them and pray and things like that to keep them in their thoughts.”
One of the most moving parts of the ceremony was a fly-over to honor Lt. Matthew Lowe of Plantation. He was killed April 6, 2011 along with Lt. Nathan Williams when their F-18 crashed during a training mission in California.
Tracy Egan, who said she lost her husband while he was on a training mission for the Grenada invasion, was on hand for the ceremony.
“When it well up in you, this is the moment to let it well up to say thank you and I miss you and to say we love you and you are always with us,” Egan said. “Every year, I take the moment to remember the people we lost. Afterwards, I breath again, let it out and go and live life the way they would want.”
In the nation’s capital, President Barack Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tom of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama has touted his work of bringing home soldiers from Iraq and other military successes, but said that’s only half the job.
“We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us,” President Obama said. “By making sure that they get the health care and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.”
For the families of those who have members serving in harm’s way and for those who have had loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice for this country, every American give thanks for their service and honors their memory each and every Memorial Day.