Thousands of veterans and their families descended on D.C. Monday in memory of our fallen heroes. They shared stories of sacrifice, love and honor at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I hope that he knows I’m here and knows how lovingly I do this," says Denise Hlavaty, who visited her boyfriend's grave.
Fresh flowers have decorated Army Staff Sgt. Steve Butcher’s grave. His girlfriend moved from Minnesota to Arlington following his death so she could be closer for weekly visits.
“I think of everything from the day we first met to the day was told and everything in between,” she says.
The pair intended to marry before Butcher was killed by an IED outside Baghdad in 2007.
“I’m here on so many off days where there’s nothing around and now there’s so much of everything,” she says. “I kind of wish it were more like this all the time.”
“They’ve done more than we could ever repay,” says Clayton Harley, a LaPlata veteran.
Clayton and Rosetta Harley brought their kids out to visit the grandfather they never met.
“He was 23 years in the Air Force. He passed away in 1996,” Rosetta says.
They are veterans themselves and know the importance of remembering our military past and present.
“The troops need our support, the troops and their families,” says Jessica Massman.
Massman’s husband completed two tours in Iraq in a now nine-year Army career.
“It’s just heartbreaking that every one of these people are somebody’s loved ones and somebody that unfortunately has to be visited today,” she says.
“It is tough losing friends and stuff like that and then coming out here and seeing all these sites,” says Sgt. Jesse Massman. “It’s just crazy.”
But as crazy as it is, coming to Arlington is also therapeutic for people like Laura Salinas.
“This is my brother buried here,” she says.
Leonard lost his life in 2004. Now his nephew, Leo, is keeping his memory alive.
American flags were placed at each of the more than 220,000 graves Monday. Visitors were also given roses to lay alongside them.