LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - While families spent the Memorial Day taking part in barbecues and boating, we'll never forget what this day is really about:
Honoring the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
At Cave Hill National Cemetery, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell was on hand as thousands of American flags fronted the markers of fallen heroes, part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Day Ceremony.
U.S. Army Col. Fred Johnson told the crowd about a basic training graduation and his chat with a mother that summed up what the holiday is about.
"They had their son there and he was in uniform and I said, 'Congratulations, you must be proud of your son,' and the mother looked at me and said, 'Yes, I'm proud of all of my children, I wish his brother was here, he's in Iraq right now.'"
Johnson went on to explain the conversation to the crowd.
"Then she said, 'I really wish his other brother was here,'" Johnson said. "She paused, (then said), 'But he was killed in Afghanistan three months ago."
An hour later on River Road, two fallen Kentuckians were remembered at the Patriots Peace Memorial. A concrete brick was removed as a new patriot's name was added on a glass plate. Andrew "Drew" Hilliard of Anchorage, 32, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served with the Office of Naval Intelligence, lost his battle with cancer in 2015.
"He loved the people that he worked with and he loved what he did," said his father, Lt. Col. Frank Hilliard, a retired marine reserve. "He felt like it was something important. He was proud of it and he did a good job. He was a patriot."
Also honored was Donnie Paul McKinney, a tank gunner in the Kentucky Army National Guard who was struck and killed by lightning in 1986 during firing exercises at Fort Campbell. He was just 20 years old at the time.
"This is very special to the family," McKinney's brother, Sean McKinney, said. "My brother was a good soldier. He loved being a soldier and I know he would look down on this and think it was special."
More patriots were remembered a few miles away at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. Heather French Henry served as the keynote
speaker for the ceremony. The former Miss America serves as the deputy commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
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