Phoenix, nation honor veterans this Memorial Day

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Memorial Day at Tempe Park

Phoenix, nation honor veterans this Memorial Day - Thousands gathered at National Memorial Cemetery in North Phoenix Monday morning for a somber ceremony honoring the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

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PHOENIX -- Thousands gathered at National Memorial Cemetery in North Phoenix Monday morning for a somber ceremony honoring the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Some 3,000 people spent the morning at the cemetery at Cave Creek and Pinnacle Peak roads, remembering our nation's fallen heroes.

"Veterans don't get the honor that they're supposed to get," said Pat Connell, a Vietnam veteran. "It's only one day a year, so we try to make a big deal."

"It's in honor of all those who have died protecting our country, and those who are fighting to protect us now, too," said Bette Ladd, whose husband is a veteran.

Today's ceremony included a flyover of 1940's World War II trainer planes, a parade of colors and the placing of the wreaths. There was also a reading of the names of those killed in Iraq, after which Arizona Sen. John McCain addressed the crowd.

"They were family and friends to some, heroes to all," he said. "They lived, fought and died for the safety and future of a great and good nation."

McCain was there with his son, who just graduated from the Naval Academy, becoming the fourth generation of his family to serve.

Today's event has extra special meaning to many veterans and those who will come after them.

"It's really important to me to see that veterans get treated better than they did when I got back from Vietnam," Connell said.

More than a chance to reflect and remember our fallen heroes, today's gathering was also a chance for some Pearl Harbor survivors to laugh and meet up with old friends.

"We're all getting up there in age ... we're all over 65, you understand that," said Lambert Modder, who will be 88.

"I'm not old, I've just been here a long time," said Nelson Mitchell, another Pearl Harbor survivor.

The first official observance of Memorial Day was 1868.