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Tattoos and history: How Philadelphia veterans honor fellow heroes on Memorial Day

What Memorial Day means to these Philadelphia are veterans
What Memorial Day means to these Philadelphia area veterans 02:24

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Veterans filled West Philadelphia's Stomping Grounds Social Justice Café last week for CBS News Philadelphia's first-ever Coffee With Veterans. On this Memorial Day, vets are sharing the significance of the solemn holiday.

"My dad died in the military," U.S. Army veteran Vanessa Mobeck said.

Mobeck, now retired, carried out her father's legacy as a U.S. Army soldier. Her dad, Soldier Robert Mobeck, died in combat at 19 years old.

"That's normally the memorial cross we would use overseas when they would die," she said. "They would take the helmet of the person, their boots, their dog tags, their rifle. It's called a battle cross."


For others, it's a time to teach history.

Mel Payne, a Vietnam War veteran and president of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, says their mission is to educate the public, especially the youth.

"These great heroes who changed the world by not only changing the outcome of World War II but helping to change desegregation within the country of the United States," Payne said.

More than 900 Tuskegee Airmen trained to fight in World War II. Ultimately, 150 warriors lost their lives.

"We have six Tuskegee Airmen that are still living in the Philadelphia area," Payne said. "The oldest living Tuskegee Airman that we know of Mr. Roscoe Draper, who they nicknamed "Coach," who just turned 104 on May 14, 2023."


Underneath the inspiring stories, a Philadelphia love song was heard.

"Philadelphia, calls her Philly, she won't mind," Army veteran John Carpineta sang. "She will welcome you, won't you spend a little time."

The song was written by Carpineta, who's affectionately known as "Johnny C." At 63 years old, he became a professional golfer and dedicated his PGA career to helping veterans through PGA Hope.

While Americans say thank you to their veterans for their service, Carpineta is reminding them of the significance of Memorial Day.

"It enables us to look back and reflect on those who served," he said, "so we can have Mother's Day and Father's Day and all the other days that we sometimes take for granted."

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