BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Memorial Day is a holiday to honor those who have given their lives for our freedom.

Hundreds gathered at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Monday to pay tribute to America’s fallen servicemen and women.

“Never let us forget those who paid so terrible of price to ensure that freedom would be our legacy,” Erie County chaplain Father Michael Johnson said. “Though their names may fade by the passing of generations, may we never forget what they have done.”

At Forest Lawn Cemetery, the community came together in prayer, honor and remembrance of what Memorial Day stands for: to honor the fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom.

“Thank you to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families who endured the pain of their loss,” Erie County American Legion President Colleen Kowalski said. “They are now still and shall not grow old, as we who are left shall grow old holding them in memory.”

Former County and Post Commander Thomas O’Connell said that every year, Scouts, the ROTC, American Legion, and others come to help decorate the graves of fallen heroes.

“They’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember and I think it’s a great tribute to our deceased (service) members,” O’Connell said.

The community placed over 7,000 flags on veterans’ graves in gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

“It’s important to learn about the sacrifices and the history and the reasons why of what we have now,” Boy Scout Ryan Couchman said.

Veteran Mark Schiltz said it’s important to him that he pass down his Memorial Day traditions to his grandson Tyler.

“It means everything to me, and I want to teach and instill it into him, you know, pass it on from generation to generation,” Schiltz said.

A tradition for many Western New Yorkers has been teaching the importance of saying the names of fallen heroes, and thanking veterans and shaking their hands.

10-year-old T.J. Bailey made it his mission to shake every veteran’s hand and thank them for their service before the ceremony.

“I just really wanted to do that, and daddy said that they don’t get that a lot,” Bailey said.

So whether you pay tribute by attending a parade, flying your flag half-mast, or taking a moment to reflect — veterans and loved ones of these fallen soldiers, ask you to remember the sacrifice of the fallen.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.