Veterans, families gather to remember loved ones lost - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Veterans, families gather to remember loved ones lost

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(Chris O'Rourke/WCIV) (Chris O'Rourke/WCIV)
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- Several veterans organization teamed up to hold a Memorial Day ceremony at Parks Cemetery Monday.

Organizers said the crowd that appeared to honor the fallen was the largest they had seen in years past.

"Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to recognize the sacrifice that those who have gone before us has made," said Bill Schmidt, Commander of American Legion Post 21. "Looking back over the last 200 years, those were some pretty big sacrifices."

It's a sacrifice that Navy Veteran Raymond Shaw knows all too well. He recently lost his son, USN Senior Chief Brian John Shaw. He said the day meant more to him than it has ever meant before.

Shaw said his son was a Navy Seal who was awarded two Purple Hearts, 28 commendations and served on two submarines.

After serving in Vietnam and Desert Storm, Shaw said it only took 30 days for cancer to take Brian's life.

"And here I am," he said. "I got a heart that ain't worth the trouble to make it pump and I'm standing. And that shouldn't have happened."

Along with memories of his son and other family members lost in war, Shaw said he also thinks a lot about his own shipmates lost in the line of duty.

"When we came out of Okinawa, out of 300 men, 15 officers, there was 75 of the original crew left," he said. "We put a lot of guys that I served with for three years over the side."

Retired Rear Admiral Bob Besal served 30 years in the U.S. Navy and said Memorial Day has changed a lot for him since he left active service.

"I realize in retrospect the number of people who gave of their lives, of their health, of their comfort, of their welfare to protect our nation and ensure our liberties," he said. "It means a lot to me today."

Besal said it was wonderful to see so many veterans at the ceremony and believes that they have also grown closer to the holiday, and that they understand how important it is for future generations to pick up the torch and continue serving the nation.

It's a responsibility Shaw agreed needs to be passed on.

"Many men have died to keep this country free, to keep the Constitution in place, to give us the right to religious freedom and to personal freedom," Shaw said. "So you better get off your ass and make sure it doesn't go away because you'll never get it back."

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