CBS 3’s Anita Oh and KYW Newsradio’s Mike DeNardo contributed to this story..
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a solemn Memorial Day ceremony aboard the USS Olympia at Penn’s Landing honoring the individuals who died defending our country over the last year.
“It’s just a day of honor,” said Father Brian O’Neill, a Marine Corps veteran.
The USS Olympia is the world’s oldest floating steel warship, launched in 1892.
Speaking to a small crowd in the admiral’s quarters aboard the cruiser, retired Army Lt. Col. Maura “Mo” Gillen had three requests.
Number one, to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice by name.
“It’s so personal,” she said. “We can look at the cost of war in the aggregate and all of those lost lives and it’s truly stunning. But each life matters.”
So Gillen read the names of 30 service members killed in the last year.
“First Lt. Anais A. Tobar, 25 years old…”
Second, she says people should take care of there families those left behind.
Finally, she urged the crowd to enjoy their holiday and to celebrate their freedom, because that’s what those who died for us would have wanted.
“They’re my brothers and sisters,” said Joe Eastman, a U.S. Navy veteran. “I am forever indebted to them.”
Eastman fears however that the history of soldiers’ sacrifices will be lost.
“Unlike when I was younger, we seem to have forgotten what this day is all about,” he said. “When I was in school, all my male teachers were Vietnam or Korea vets, so the meaning was reinforced.”
Like the day they took up the call of duty for service, some veterans say they now have another cause.
“We have to pass on the legacy of their death and their heroism and if we don’t do that, an awful lot has been lost,” O’Neill said.
And that’s why a large crowd marched in Bridesburg for the city’s oldest Memorial Day parade, started in 1947 by World War II veteran Edward Dubeck.
“Ed passed away and we do it in his memory now,” said one of the parade marshals George Meissler. “We march rain or shine. It doesn’t matter.”
“It’s incumbent upon us as veterans to make sure nobody forgets probably people we’ll never know that willingly went in harm’s way so that we can stand here and do things like this and go have a BBQ and drink a beer,” Eastman said.