Near New Orleans, A Heartfelt Salute

CBS News Up To The Minute is focusing on local news with its daily "Eye On:" segment. At :40 past the hour, we will tell the stories that are not being told on any other network broadcast, straight from the CBS News affiliates and journalists who are covering them. We begin this series with our Eye On: New Orleans, and our affiliate, WWL-TV.

On this Memorial Day in New Orleans - where so much has changed forever - for some, one thing has not: the pilgrimage a few miles outside the city limits to the Chalmette National Cemetery, 17 acres adjacent to the site of the Battle of New Orleans, and the final resting place of war dead from the Revolution on through Vietnam.

For Memorial Day observances, the gates were opened at this historic site where, among the thirteen thousand headstones there, two are especially important to one very proud 12-year-old boy.

Joseph Passafume missed meeting his uncle and grandfather by a couple of decades. He caught up with them under the oak trees where they rest: a reminder of their service and sacrifice.

"I like to pay my respects to my family members who fought in wars," Passafume told WWL-TV Reporter Ben Lemoine.

Around the old cemetery that bears battle scars from the Civil War to the wrath of Katrina, memories are marked by stained and slanted concrete. And by a few dozen people paying their respects.

For Lt. Col. Nick Lorusso, it is a teaching tool.

"I want you to think about Uncle Gary's friend that was just killed in Afghanistan," he whispered to his children.

He says even his seven year-old daughter, Sophia, is beginning to understand the ultimate sacrifice made by so many.

"Every Memorial Day, I try to grab as many of my kids as I can get to come with me and we come out just to try to instill in my kids what it's all about," Lorusso explained.

And when his daughter Sophia is asked why they come out here every Memorial Day, she simply answered: "Because we want to thank the soldiers."

For the people who came here to remember the fallen, it couldn't be a more appropriate place for a memorial or a more appropriate time. Many of them are still recovering and remembering their own battle.

"It's like a battle, and the casualty rates were very high because there were not only those dead, but those that are displaced and are not coming back," said Retired Marine General Tommy Rigsby.

But while some are still suffering, honoring those who suffered for our country can't stop as a result.

"We said we don't care if there's only three or four of us - we're going to do the ceremony, even if we have to jump the fence," Rigsby added. "We've done it all these years without fail, and we weren't going to stop this time."

Because for some, this time was more important than ever.