CECIL TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — By the dawn’s early light, staff from the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies honored those who fought for the broad stripes and bright stars through numerous perilous fights.

“I just can’t thank the veterans enough for everything that they do,” visitor Bud Herrod said.

Last year about 1,000 visitors gathered for the Memorial Day Ceremony, packing the memorial walk field. With the current pandemic, the cemetery made it a private service to abide by social distancing guidelines.

A handful of visitors watched from a distance, scattered around the grounds. They unaware a ceremony would still happen and happened to be there while the ceremony was happening.

“It was special. I thought wow. Even though the families aren’t here, they’re still having a ceremony for them,” Thelma Wentzel said after visiting her husband’s grave.

“We have to remember them. We have to. As long as I’m here, we will not forget them,” veteran and cemetery director Ed Hajduk said.

Jennifer Herrod was visiting a family member’s grave when she stopped and watched the service.

“I thought it was amazing they were still able to honor the people who have sacrifice their lives for our country,” she said.

So as the Star-Spangled Banner yet waived over the land of the free and this home of the brave, loved ones of veterans watched as the staff laid wreaths to remember sacrifices made by service members. The ceremony ended with taps echoing off the surrounding hills and fields.

“That always gets to me. It was so nice,” Wentzel said afterward.

“It puts this weekend into perspective. It reminds you of what it really is, to honor those,” Herrod said.

Hajduk said even though today’s ceremony was private the cemetery grounds are still open to visitors.

If you need any help or want to know about a loved one that is buried there, visit their website or give them a call.