Memorial Day to many means cookouts and a three-day weekend. For those who served their country and their families, it often means a whole lot more.
Hundreds of people came to Coral Ridge Cemetery and its Veteran's Honor Garden on Monday for its annual memorial service to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to keep our nation free.
They were treated to a touching ceremony featuring words from guest speakers who know all too well the price of freedom.
A flag and a bouquet decorates the grave of a veteran at the Coral Ridge Cemetery during the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Veteran's Honor Garden on Monday.
"This is to remember our fallen brothers and sisters, honoring their memories," said speaker Ray Villanueva, a U.S. Air Force veteran and commander of AMVETS Post 65. "I myself have an uncle who died in the Korean War, and this is giving back our memories with our children and future leaders."
The event featured a Huey fly-over salute to kick things off, with The Sun-Sations barbershop quartet singing the National Anthem in the beginning and "God Bless America" to bring things to an end, and Vietnam veteran Roy St. Onge singing "God Bless the U.S.A."
Mayor Marni Sawicki was also on hand to recite the Pledge of Allegience, as was her predecessor John Sullivan, a strong supporter of veterans causes.
"It's important we come out here to support the veterans, past and present, for the duty they performed for our country," Sullivan said.
"They gave us a way of life that we wouldn't have without them."
The most touching moments came from the guest speakers. Alan Classon, past commander of VFW Post 8463 and a Marine veteran, spoke of American Pride, which began with the ride of Paul Revere and, while tested for more than 200 years, have never wavered.
"Each and every one of us can start that spark. Memorial Day should be Tune Up Your American Pride Day," Classon said. "I tune up my American Pride each time I fold a veteran's flag off a coffin."
Villanueva talked of the selfless actions of the fallen, whether they be sailors, soldiers, airmen or Marines, who gave their lives so their comrades could live and so freedom can prevail, and recounted stories of them.
"Beyond the many citations of valor are the untold, undocumented stories of American men and women who live with the scars of war,"
Villanueva said. "It's impossible for these veterans and their families to forget the sacrifuces they made, so why should our own memories lapse?"
Jeff Rousey, retired Iraq War veteran, spoke of seeing the ultimate sacrifice firsthand, when his scout squadron got caught by the enemy.
"I woke up with the horrid sight of my wingman's vehicle blowing up. I was able to retrieve three of those soldiers; one of them failed to make it," Rousey said. "That day 45 minutes seemed like an eternity."
VFW Post 8463 gave the gun salute and the playing of Taps and Jack Mulver gave the closding benediction before all were invited to the Coral Ridge Funeral Home for refreshments and fellowship.
"It's a great community of veterans here and we'd like to say 'Thank You' for those who lost their lives," said Jorge Bracero, Army veteran and program chairman of the funeral home and cemetery, which provides services to U.S. veterans and their spounses. "We try to involve as many kids as we can so they can appreciate what they have done for this great country."