By Mary McGuire

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — All across the country and here in Minnesota, folks are honoring our nation’s heroes this Memorial Day.

In our area, people came together to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where hundreds of people recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Memorial Day services at Fort Snelling draw some of the largest crowds in the state. Many of the graves have flags placed in front of them — 40,000 in all.

(credit: CBS)

The service began with a parade through the grounds of the cemetery, featuring veterans from around the state. They were joined by various politicians who came to pay they respects, including US Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representatives Tim Walz and Keith Ellison, and Governor Mark Dayton.

Among those in the crowd was Marty Verdeja of St. Paul who makes the trip to Fort Snelling every year to honor his father and his uncle who are both buried here.

“They sacrificed a lot,” Verdeja said. “My dad, himself, and three brothers were all in the service at the same time. Two were in the European Union and two were in the Asian Pacific. So three made it back, and Uncle Tino didn’t.”

Since 1870, the grounds at Fort Snelling have been the final resting place for those who lost their lives serving our nation, but it was almost 50 years later that a portion of the reservation was established as a national cemetery.

Today, more than 180,000 service members are buried at the site.

All of the flags on graves were paid for through donations. About 1,500 volunteers placed them in front of the graves early in the morning this Memorial Day.

Mary McGuire