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By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Veterans groups have been taking part in Memorial Day services throughout the region this weekend.

John Tomosky knows what many look forward to this time of year.

“As far as the barbecues and the family picnics and things like that – we don’t mind but as long as the basic citizenry doesn’t forget.”

Tomosky is chairman of the American Legion’s advisory board in Philadelphia and always has his father’s service in World War II on his mind.

“A shell hit and killed his friend and they had to proceed ahead. Here he is proceeding ahead in a battle without his buddy,” Tomosky said.

A reminder of the grim reality of service, and where the nation would be without the sacrifices made by soldiers throughout history.

Tomosky is thrilled when he sees younger people pay their respects, such as a parade this weekend in South Philadelphia.

“They had the colors,” he said. “They had the flags. They were in a Memorial Day parade and they were showing patriotism.”

To Mary Zelonis, Memorial Day is personal.

“My father was a World War II veteran and so he has passed on, and I think of him and his service and what he did for our country as part of the greatest generation and how hard it was for them to adjust,” she said.

Zelonis, inspired by her father, served for two decades in the army. She was an LPN during the first Gulf War. 

She’s now the American Legion’s Eastern Vice Commander in Pennsylvania.

She says it’s been difficult meeting some of the young veterans of the wars of the past decade and seeing what they’re going through. So the holiday, to her, is about honoring those who died and also enriching the lives of those still with us.

“We just need to make it that everybody gets their welcome home,” she said. “Because, if it wasn’t for those of us that choose to put the uniform on, I don’t know that we would be the country that we are today.”

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