FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The true meaning of Memorial Day is honoring all the men and women who have given up their lives for freedom.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngeles visited Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale where many were doing just that.
A salute from a soldier, a WWII veteran, honoring the heroes who served and sacrificed.
“My best friend was killed the first day in combat, and ever since then it just means, because I’m here, he isn’t, it means something to me,” Marshall said.
Marshall, 95, joined fellow veteran at Long Island National Cemetery.
“Because we didn’t have a parade we want to make sure that it is celebrated — celebrates those who lost their lives defending their country,” said Army National Guard Veteran John Robbins of Rockville Centre.
They placed the symbol of our freedom – the American flag – alongside headstones. Behind each one, a story of commitment to our country.
“In one case, there was an Air Force lieutenant, died 1944, and I’m thinking was he a fighter pilot and killed? Was he a bomber? Part of a bomber crew and killed? And what they did so we could be standing here today?” said Jay Brick of Long Beach.
“Honoring veterans. Look at the lines. Look at the amount of people who gave their lives to serve this country,” said Korean War Army veteran Buddy Epstein of Long Beach.
Normally, thousands of volunteers gather at Long Island National Cemetery to place gravesite flags, but due to COVID-19 the National Cemetery Administration made the decision not to hold public events where social distancing could be a challenge. Many still came on their own.
“We were upset this year because they said they weren’t going to be able to do it because of the coronavirus. So it was our honor and our duty as Americans to be able to come here to the National Cemetery, all because of our 7-year-old,” said Belmore resident JoAnn Belferder.
“Four of my family members served in the Army and I honor them,” 7-year-old Joshua Belferder said. It was his idea to buy 100 flags to place as a family. He’s only 7 and he already knows he wants the honor of serving his country.
“When I grow up I want to be a nurse in the army,” he said.
“Why do you want to serve one day?” DeAngelis asked.
“Because it’s a good thing to protect people and this country,” he said.
So young, yet so much pride, patriotism and gratitude, which the veterans hope continues for generations to come.
“It’s Memorial Day. It’s not barbecue day. It’s not sale day. We seem to forget that. We have to reflect on those who gave their supreme sacrifice for this country,” Epstein said.
There are more than 250,000 veterans buried at Long Island National Cemetery. Today and every day we thank them for their service and sacrifice for our country.