NEW YORK –It’s a day for many people to relax on the Memorial Day holiday, but it’s important to remember what the day is really all about.
Monday we honor those who died in military service for our country.
At Arlington National Cemetery, President Joe Biden attended a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, where remains of soldiers who could not be identified are kept.
After a laying a wreath there, Biden spoke to families about the heartache of the day.
“Memorial Day is always a day where pain and pride are mixed together. We all know it sitting here. Jill and I know it. Today is the day our son died,” Biden said. “And for so many of you, as it is for Jill and me, the hurt is wrapped around the knowledge that your loved one was a part of something bigger, bigger than any of us. ”
And at the WWII memorial in Washington, veterans and family members gathered to remember the more than 400,000 men and women who died.
Towns across the Tri-State Area also marked the day. From North Arlington, NJ, to Freeport, and New York City there were countless ceremonies and parades.
As CBS2’s Christina Fan reports, the somber meaning behind Memorial Day unfurled at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Hundreds of veterans and service members stood at attention, watching the military aircraft fly over in Missing Man formation, remembering those who never returned.
“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.
Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul were among the many dignitaries honoring the men and women of the US armed forces who gave their lives defending our freedom, laying down wreaths on the Hudson River while “Taps” echoed in the background.
“The foundation of our country will always be that worthy fight,” Hochul said.
“Only country with the word’dream.’ There is no German dream, polish dream, but, darn it, there is an American dream,” Adams said.
“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 US Fleet Forces Command.
Just north of the Intrepid, thousands of families chose to observe Memorial Day on the USS Bataan, docked at Pier 88 for the last day of Fleet Week, thanking active duty military for their service.
Among the heroes being remembered, US 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.
“Right now they are here, but you never know, on short notice they could be in Europe, with everything that’s going on with Russia,” said Upper East Side resident Robert Viera.
Mark Baker said he used the long wait in line to teach his sons the price of freedom.
“Being in the Navy, or Army or military is very hard because you have to adapt to a lot of new things,” his son said. “Usually you have to say goodbye to your family.”
“It’s a very fragile world. We’ve seen that in many different ways, and they are the backbone of what keeps things working normally,” Baker said.
Veterans say it’s important these traditions carry on.
“We have been doing this celebration since the Civil War,” one veteran said.
“We must always remember them, every day of the week, not just Memorial Day,” said veteran Richard Adams.
And the brave people of the armed forces who died for our freedom were also honored across the Tri-State Area during many parades, which includes one of. 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, NJ
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.