Lena Morone watched as her great-granddaughter planted a flag on her husband's grave.
But while the toddler never got to met her great-grandfather, Vada Morone's family makes sure she remembers Ernest Morone well and pays tribute to the Korean War veteran.
"We bring her here all the time, and she kisses his stone and puts flowers," Lena Morone said.
The widow, accompanied by her daughter-in-law and great-granddaughter, was among the many family, friends and fellow veterans who came to pay tribute to those soldiers who fought for our freedom, many making the ultimate sacrifice, at Saturday's Preparing for Memorial Day Service at Manasota Memorial Park Garden of Valor in Bradenton.
"It's such an honor," Lena Morone said. "I'm just home waiting for him still."
She reflected on her beloved, who was taken off to the Korean War just after their wedding but with whom she shared three sons and years of memories.
Daughter-in-law Jean Morone also remembered him fondly.
"It's a real honor to pay him tribute," Jean Morone said. "He always
told us about his war stories."
The service included a keynote memorial address by Larry Bustle, chairman of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners and a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War.
"For some it's just a day off," Bustle said. "But for some of us the day means something special. For me, I especially remember those friends and colleagues who paid the ultimate sacrifice."
Bustle also spoke of the importance of talking about heroism and sacrifice.
"Our freedoms were fought for, bled for and in many cases died for," Bustle said. "We must never stop fighting for our veterans; they never stop fighting for us, and some gave their last breath."
Sharon and Donald Picard also attended Saturday's memorial in honor of all the veterans they have known.
"They are all special," Sharon Picard said. "We should definitely honor them and never forget them. They have done so much for us."
Her husband, an Army veteran, sat by her side as she reflected on the many veterans they've known.
"My older brother was in Vietnam," she said. "He's seen so much. We are lucky."
For Donald Picard, Memorial Day has special meaning, so much so that in addition to lining his own home with flags, he also helped with the placing of about 1,500 flags at the Manasota Memorial Park.
"It's a proud day and a sad day also," he said. "We'll never forget our women and men that fought to be where we are today."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.