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Philadelphia cemetery continues Memorial Day tradition

Philly cemetery continues centuries old Memorial Day tradition
Philly cemetery continues centuries old Memorial Day tradition 01:54

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Back in 1868, Laurel Hill East was the site for the very first Memorial Day celebration in Philadelphia. At the beat of the drums, people marched in Laurel Hill Cemetery. 

Some were in replica Civil War-era military uniforms while they watched as wreaths were placed near headstones of veterans like Union Major General George G. Meade. 

"The greatest war hero in the history of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He was the victor of the Battle of Gettysburg," Andy Waskia of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia said.

The ceremony brought generations together to honor the true meaning of the holiday. 

"It's certainly more than picnics and going to the beach and vacation and that sort of thing," U.S. Army Corporal Technician Benjamin Berry said.

"It certainly means so much to me to see the youngsters being brought to these occasions," the 99-year-old World War II Veteran said.

Sebastian Major is one of those youngsters. 

At just 16, he had the honor of playing Taps during the service. 

"It's really important that our generation understands the people who lost their lives either in or before combat that allows us to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country today," Major said.

CBS News Philadelphia

Over 50 volunteers came out to make sure that 2,000 flags were ready for Sunday's ceremony.

One veteran helped fundraise for the placards. 

"Laurel Hill Cemetery has a fund called the Veteran Flag Holders Fund and we just love to donate as much as we can, and we try to acknowledge all the veterans that are unknown," National Guard Veteran Roberto Rodriguez said. "Enjoy your barbecue but please just realize this holiday is for a purpose too." 

It's a purpose that veterans and all Americans hope will never be forgotten.

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