Updated: 05/26/2014 7:04 PM
Created: 05/26/2014 6:57 PM KAALtv.com
By: Hannah Tran
(ABC 6 News) -- Memorial Day can be spent shopping, visiting the beach, or grilling, but a large crowd of Rochester residents and veterans packed Soldier's Field Memorial for a time to reflect.
Before the ceremony, many locals followed a march to Soldier's Field Memorial that extended several blocks in downtown Rochester.
The Memorial was not only overflowing with only people, but with their memories of those dear to their hearts, those who died in uniform.
"One percent of America steps forward and says 'I pledge, I pledge' to protect this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic," said a guest speaker at the event.
He reminded Rochester residents that they're here to remember that the luxuries of this modern day are enjoyed because of the sacrifice of many lives in the past.
"It can be a friend, a family, a loved one, a mother, a father," said the guest speaker, who's also a Vietnam War veteran.
For Korean War veteran Merle Peterson, it was his uncle.
"This is my uncle Will, who died during the first World War," said Peterson.
He couldn't take his finger off of the granite stone bearing the name "William Peterson," but engraved in stone or not, there's other names that he will never be able to lift his mind off of.
"I do have many friends that were lost in the Korean War," he said.
For those visiting this ceremony and for many others nationwide, Memorial Day is not welcomed as a typical holiday.
"A lot of people think it's just a barbeque day or the first day of summer, but we need to remember the sacrifices that families have endured," said veteran and guest speaker Joe Brown.
Reliving the memories of the past can be painful, but for these veterans, living blindly without gratitude for the simple freedoms of today is much worse.