WWII Veterans mark Memorial on the National Mall

In the nation’s capital, Memorial Day weekend means different events are kicking-off to honor the true meaning of the national holiday. 

That means honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy the many freedoms we have today.  

On Saturday, multiple World War II Veterans, including one a century old, participated in a special ceremony to honor the friends lost alongside them on the battlefield and lost during their time of service. 

The WWII Memorial Day ceremony is also unique in that it’s an opportunity for the Veterans of that war and generation to share their stories with those much younger.  

Over 400,000 men and women died in the conflict. Those lives and their sacrifices are marked by the "Freedom Wall" at the memorial. It’s a wall of stars, with each gold star representing 100 lives lost. The Freedom wall has 4,048 gold stars. 

One of the Veterans there to mark Memorial Day is 98-year-old Army Veteran Frank Cohn, who escaped Nazi Germany at 13-years-old, only to turn around and fight the Nazis under the American Flag. 

Several of the WWII Veterans participating on Sunday were just 16 to 19-years-old during combat. 

"During the Battle of the Budge it was a little bit risky to get hairy," said Army Veteran Frank Cohn, who shared some of his story with FOX 5." "The rumors were just terrible. We thought that German parachuters had come in, and they were just shooting all around, and you just didn’t know exactly what the idea was and that question you don’t know is the worst thing."

USAA, which provides services to military members and families, noted last week, that in a recent YouGov poll less than half – JUST 46% of those surveyed properly answered that they know the true meaning of Memorial Day. Holly Rotondi is the Friends of the National World War II Memorial Executive Director.

"It’s kind of heartbreaking actually," said Rotondi, "because we have to remember such a small – I think it’s only 1% of the population serves in uniform, and they are sacrificing so much for our country. 16 million of the men and women of the WWII generation donned that uniform and served our country honorably." She also noted the those honored on the Freedom Wall. 


Memorial Day parades and other things to do in DC, Maryland & Virginia

Memorial Day Weekend is here and there are plenty of parades, celebrations, and other events in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Saturday also marks the National World War II Memorial’s 20th anniversary.  

Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur received the Unity award, named after Montgomery County’s own, the late Brigadier General Charles E. McGee. Kaptur first introduced legislation to build the memorial in 1987 – and would do so again two more times until the bill was finally signed into law in 1993. 

It's an emotional place for veterans and the orphans of the war, especially, as they honor their loved ones, who paved the way to the freedoms we enjoy today. 

As families celebrate with barbeques and Memorial Day discounts -- or visit a cemetery or memorial to pay their respects, Army Veteran Kohn also asked Americans to think about patriotism. 

"During and after WWII, we were all together. And there was a great feeling of patriotism because we had won the war, and we had conquered the people that were just miserable. And the country was together," said Cohn, "Unfortunately, our country is not together right now, and I think we have to work on it to get it back together. That’s what the lesson should be about WWII. We set the example. Now follow and get together. And you don’t have to be of the same party, but you can be civil and reach, you can reach a hand across and shake the hand of your opponent and there’s nothing wrong with that."

Hundreds of thousands of visitors mark Memorial Day at the WWII Memorial each year. Officials asked FOX 5 to remind visitors they can sit down and wet their feet at the memorial fountain, but swimming, splashing, and wading through the water is not allowed. It could end in a ticket and is highly disrespectful to those being honored with the memorial.