PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Americans are taking time today to honor our Fallen Heroes, as well as those currently serving in the Armed Forces.

Thousands gathered in Lawrenceville this morning for one of the longest-running Memorial Day parades in the country.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports:

Click here for more photos from Memorial Day observances around the region.

The parade marched down Butler Street to Allegheny Cemetery, afterward a picnic was held. There were police officers, firefighters, a military color guard, as well as veterans’ organizations and entertainers for the kids.

In Lawrenceville and at other observances around the area today, it’s was a time to reflect on those who have given their lives for American freedom.

“Just the sacrifices of the veterans who are not here to enjoy and partake of the parade,” said Joseph Musneski, a Vietnam veteran.

It was also a day to take stock of our obligation to those currently serving and those who have served and have returned home.

“To keep on praying for our military people, keep in supporting them,” said Loretta Millender, a military wife. “They need all the support they can get and we should be the ones back home doing it.”

As a Hercules C-130 military transport from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard flew overhead, old and young lined Butler Street. The crowd waved flags and watched the passing marching bands and performers, including some who showed their appreciation in festive ways.

At the memorial in Hazelwood, there was a more somber ceremony.

“It’s important to remember the soldiers – those who have fought for our country, died for our country,” said Denise Perris, a Hazelwood resident.

And perhaps that message is sinking in.

“I think nowadays, yes, people are more appreciative and they recognize now,” said Richard Troy, a veteran of the Iraq War

Events were also held throughout the day at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

KDKA-TV’s Ross Guidotti was honored to speak at Castle Shannon’s Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday. Ross is a Marine Corps veteran, who served in Operation Desert Storm and has been with KDKA for 14 years.

Here is his moving speech:

In Castle Shannon, there were bands, flags, and pomp and ceremony for the day we remember those lost so far away but so close to our hearts, killed in defense of the greatest of all gifts – freedom.

“My brother was a Marine sergeant killed in action in Afghanistan in July 2009, a day our family will never forget,” said Lt. David Lane, of Castle Shannon Police.

Lane played a key role in organizing the Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Park, a quaint place dedicated to service and sacrifice of native sons and daughters – faces on banners forever young that look toward you from above.

Several more would join those ranks today: Sgt. John Butterbaugh, Tech Sgt. Alex Garan Jr., Aviation Cadet Malvern Hilliard, USMC Michael Herb Jr., Pvt. Gerald Knos, Pvt. Michael Lorenz, 1st Lt. James F. Martin Jr., Pvt. Alex Marusich, Pvt. John C. McMongial, and Lt. Sam McRobert.

“We memorialized 11 men that our community didn’t know about and we brought them back to show them these men walked our streets, lived here, and died for our county,” said Lane.

KDKA’s Ross Guidotti Reports:

One of those lost was Pvt. Michael Latooka, killed in the South Pacific. His 96-year-old sister, Mary Homar, received a framed replica of Mike’s banner.

She still remembers the day the telegram came.

“It was awful. We just couldn’t believe it. We were heartbroken,” said Homar.

No one felt more pain then his mother, Mary, who was a Czechoslovakian immigrant. What happened to her Michael was not lost in translation.

“She just couldn’t believe it. She was crying all the time,” said Homar. “It wasn’t easy.”

But now Michael and the others are forever remembered, silent sentries watching from above the streets of their hometown.

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