Knoxville (WVLT) - For many Americans, Memorial Day means big family picnics, time on the lake, or backyard barbecues.
As Volunteer TVs Whitney Daniel reports, for many East Tennesseeans, this day means so much more.
It's the memories of fellow soldiers and fallen friends that makes this day so special. Many veterans we talked with say they hope all Americans, young and old, will remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
"They hold a very special place in our hearts, the ones that didn't make it back," American Legion, Post 2 Commander Marty Everett said.
It's about remembering, and for veterans, they remember like it was yesterday.
"A shell came over as close as where that man is over there," World War II veteran Earl Bishop said.
"I was wounded and lost my right leg in Germany," World War II veteran Gerald Clark said.
But those who didn't come home are the heroes whose memories shine through on Memorial Day.
"We can never say thank you enough to the ones who've preserved our freedom over the years," Congressman John J. Duncan, Junior said.
At the Tennessee Veteran's Cemetery & Knoxville's National Veteran's Cemetery, long-serving soldiers remember their fallen friends.
"We pay honors to all those who've lost their lives," Bishop said.
And those fighting today.
"Especially those who are still over in Iraq," Bishop said.
Ceremonies serve as a "thank you" to the war dead. In Loudon County, they relive history of this holiday.
In Oak Ridge, a musical tribute to those who fought as East Tennessee thanks all soldiers for a selfless sacrifice.
"It means everything to us because it's our freedom, and we fought for, and the ones laying here fought for our freedom, and if it wasn't for them we wouldn't have it," World War II Navy veteran John Strange said.
At several of Monday's ceremonies, a message to all Americans from veterans, asking everyone to take time to thank those who've served and pray for those families who's loved one didn't make it home.