ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Memorial Day ceremony at Bay Pine National Cemetery in St. Petersburg drew a crowd of about 4,000 people who honored the military men and women who died serving our country.
The event paid special tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of Vietnam.
"Unbelievable. It really is. It's something you don't expect," said Nelson Britt, a Vietnam War veteran. "Very emotional. Very heart-warming. It brings back memories and makes me realize, in a minute, the Lord's willing, I would do it again."
The ceremony also included a wreath-laying ceremony and a 21-gun salute. The largest and longest standing ovation was given to the handful of World War II veterans in the crowd.
"These guys, these gals, they love their country more than life and so they gave up all," said Robert Balnicky, who fought during World War II. "We gave up everything so it's an honor. It's a blessing, even to give our own lives."
The keynote speaker for the event was U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Edward Sandlin. Others who spoke included U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
"We have an obligation to try be a good citizen and to respect each other and to stand up for the vulnerable," Nelson said.
Prior to the ceremony, volunteers from the community marked more than 35,000 graves at the cemetery with American flags to honor the men and women who served the nation.