ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - While thousands of people are celebrating this Memorial Day, one group in Albuquerque is pushing for everyone to think about what the holiday truly stands for: remembering soldiers and paying respect.
Veterans from the American Legion Post 69 gathered at one of Albuquerque's older cemetery's on Monday for a special ceremony. While it wasn't one of the biggest around, they hope their message resonates in a big way.
"People are just forgetting the significance of veterans," said Robert Jaramillo, commander for the New Mexico American Legion group. "This holiday is not just a barbecue holiday."
"It seems to have gotten out of hand a little," said David Stevens, commander for the American Legion Post 69.
Stevens and Jaramillo were among the small group of about 50 people gathered to honor fallen soldiers buried at San Carlos Cemetery in northwest Albuquerque. The cemetery is one of Albuquerque oldest cemeteries with burial dating back to the 1990's.
"We have to honor our veterans and as you see, we've had more people in the past," said Jaramillo.
Volunteers raised 78 flags at the cemetery with each one honoring a fallen soldier. Some of the soldiers there served in World War I.
Wiping a tear from his eye, Stevens said placing the flags is something he holds dear.
"It's just a good feeling to be able to do something like this," said Stevens.
That feeling resonates with the families who have buried their loved ones at the cemetery. Mary Jo Santillanes Mona Torres' father, Joe Santillanes, rests at San Carlos. Santillanes was a World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Navy.
"it just means a lot to us," said Mary Jo Santillanes after seeing the flags on Monday.
"He loved this area, he loved the mountains, so we kind of feel him here," said Mona Torres.
Many others are felt at San Carlos as well. Ceremony participants read all of the names of the veterans buried at the cemetery.
While it is a small group, they hopes their humble ceremony and message, carries past the gates of San Carlos Cemetery.
"It's because of these people that we can do things like that, that we can do everything that we do in the United States of America, we owe it to our veterans," said Stevens.
All of the flags placed on the graves Monday were put up by the Sons of the American Legion , a group of people who aren't eligible to be "Legion" members, but who have family members that served.
American Legion Post 69 organizes the ceremony at San Carlos each year.
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