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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) The true meaning of Memorial Day was felt at the Wilmington National Cemetery Monday morning, where veterans gathered with local citizens to pay their respects to the growing number of service people who will not be coming home.

The National Anthem sounds more sentimental. The colors of our flag more vivid this Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Wilmington.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo commemorated the day.

“As we honor their memory today let us pledge that their sacrifices, that their lives, their courage shall be remembered for as long as god gives life,” Saffo said.

It is in the faces and the words of veterans, those who served that we remember those who went into service and did not return. Bill Ebersbach is proud to have served as a marine.

“To gather the forces again to show our respect, every stone that’s out there today, every flag that’s out there represents somebody who gave up their tomorrow so that you and I could be here today,” he said.

A tolling of the bell ceremony read aloud the names of 648 local veterans who passed away since last Memorial Day.

Michael McCartan reminds us that we still have men and women fighting for our country and that the challenges they face today have not gotten easier.

“Over the years I saw friends go off to Vietnam and was fortunate that I was not assigned to go, but they had a very rough time when they came back, they had a rough time adjusting,” McCartan said. “I can imagine what’s going on with the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I hope their county fully supports them.”

Veterans stood among 5,000 flags that were placed in the cemetery by local boy scouts.

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