RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many of the large public ceremonies people are used to attending on Memorial Day couldn’t happen this year due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop people from paying their respects.
The tombstones at Raleigh National Cemetery serve as a sobering reminder that freedom isn’t free.
“They wrote a check to the American people, government, to value up to and including their life,” said Mike Frady.
Frady, a veteran himself, has an uncle buried at the cemetery.
“We just sit and remember and pay tribute to those who gave us the opportunity to do what we’re doing now,” said Frady.
He said you don’t need to be related to or even know these soldiers, referencing a quote from our 30th president Calvin Coolidge.
“The nation that forgets its defenders will itself be soon forgotten,” said Frady.
It’s a lesson Vincent Garcia, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, is teaching his children.
“What it means that some people who wore the same uniform as I did didn’t make it back,” said Garcia.
The dates and names on the markers are just the covers to stories of heroism, like William M. Bryant. He’s a medal of honor recipient.
Records show he ran through heavy enemy fire and fought off an attack to save his men — ultimately sacrificing his own life.
“We stopped by and paid our respects there,” said Garcia. “There’s a gravestone here for one of the first African American women to serve overseas in the military and she came back and was president of the NAACP in the late ’60s.”
Garcia said he learns about new people every time he comes to the Raleigh National Cemetery, then shares that knowledge with his kids.
“None of them seem like they’re on a path to be joining the military, but I want them to still understand some of the sacrifices that went into us having all of this freedom and all the great things we have,” said Garcia.
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