Veterans, volunteers and active duty place flags on markings at Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Marana ahead of Memorial Day

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:46 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Veterans and volunteers gathered at Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Marana to place flags and recognize the fallen heroes who fought for our freedom.

Mike LaBarbera is the president of the Veteran’s Club at Sun City in Oro Valley and said it’s important people know the meaning of the holiday.

“You don’t want to wish someone a Happy Memorial Day because that’s not what it’s for,” said LaBarbera.

It’s a day of remembrance to honor those who lost their lives fighting for our country.

Attendance at the cemetery was record-breaking. The event started at 8:00 a.m. and took just five minutes to place flags on 3,800 markings.

Bill Schaeffler Sr., VFW Arizona State Junior Vice Commander, said the attendance was shocking.

“When we pulled in we kind of were expecting six cars, and to see the entire parking lot covered in patriots and they’re all here putting flags in the ground before 8:00 AM, it was wonderful,” said Schaeffler.

Everyone in attendance had a different story or reason for serving.

“I’m a Vietnam Veteran Commemorative partner, where I give out Vietnam Veteran Pins to our members who served in Vietnam because of how badly we were treated back then and our country is now recognizing that,” said LaBarbera.

The focus of the event, though, was clear.

“Memorial Day is not for those of us who are still walking on this earth. The census bureau says more than one million Americans have given their lives and service to this country since 1861. That’s what this day is for, to honor and remember their sacrifice,” said Schaeffler.

Due to the high turnout, one veteran made a point to make her “thank you” a little more personal.

“By the time I got here, all the flags were already placed, so the next best thing for me was to honor every single veteran or military spouse that is laying here. I may not have a relationship with them, but I am bonded with them because we answered the call to serve,” said Monica Gupta-Abram, retired U.S. Army Officer.

She stopped at all 3,800 markings and gave her respects to every individual.

A reminder of what the day is actually about.

“The message that we really want people to get is we really hope they’re enjoying their Monday and enjoying their hot dog and going water skiing, but we want them to remember that this day was paid for. It’s not free,” said Schaeffler.

There will be a ceremony at the cemetery on Monday at 8:00 a.m.

The public is invited to attend.

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