Veterans, politicians gather in San Francisco to salute fallen U.S. soldiers

Monday marked Memorial Day and veterans, their families, and political leaders took a moment to recognize those who've made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

For many today was a solemn day of remembrance. KTVU spoke with veterans who knew some of the heroes who gave their lives for their nation.

They said the day is an important day to remember those who gave their last measure for all of us.

Amid a sea of red white and blue, row after row of headstones mark the final resting place for those who served their country.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cunningham lost friends and comrades as he served in the Marines from the Viet Nam era to the mid 1990's.

"It's real important for me and I do it as just recognition of the fellows I served with people I served with in Viet Nam," said Cunningham.

With a Coast Guard helicopter flyover, the first live Memorial Day remembrance to be conducted in person at the San Francisco National Cemetery since COVID happened in San Francisco.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thanked those who served, and those who gave their lives for their country. Saying their sacrifice should serve as motivation to come together in divided times. 

"Let's hope that in praising our veterans we are unifying too," said Pelosi.

The mother of a fallen service man placed a wreath to mark the day. Senator Alex Padilla honoring his sacrifice and so many others; as well as the recognizing the pain for those left behind.

"I'd like for all of us to take a moment to honor and thank the Gold Star families that are here today for their love, their support and their sacrifice," said Sen. Padilla.

Veterans like retired Major Bill Jang from the Marines said, said over the years Memorial Day has become a holiday like many others; simply a day off of school or work. 

He says the phrase "Happy Memorial Day," misses the point.

"For us veterans it's not that much happy, because we have friends and we know of people that passed away, or given the ultimate sacrifice for this country and for our liberties and freedom," said Jang.

Those gathered today agree that those who gave their lives are owed a debt that can never be repaid, so it's critical that those who are still living honor that sacrifice.