Residents mark Memorial Day at Fla. National Cemetery



SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - Memorial Day was marked by a huge turnout at Florida National Cemetery in Sumter County. One of the largest crowds in years packed the ceremony in Bushnell Monday morning.

Many people said they took heart by what they witnessed Monday because it reminded them of what the holiday was like when they were just kids.

Joanne Kocenski remembers a time in America when Memorial Day had little to do with department store sales or backyard barbecues.

"We were brought up doing these kinds of things on Memorial Day. And we've gotten away from it," Kocenski said.

She believes the tradition of remembrance is coming back at Florida National Cemetery.

Thousands gathered for the hourlong ceremony to remember those who had fallen in defense of the nation.

Col. Mike Prendergast of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs said a veteran is someone who wrote a blank check to the United States.

"Up to and including his or her life," Prendergast said.

People came from every part of central Florida, some from the far reaches of the state. Most have a loved one who is laid to rest at the cemetery, like Kocenski.

She said she wanted to make sure children and their children's children learn why it's important to honor them.

"You see a lot of little children here now. So they do know what it's about, because it has been forgotten by the next generation," Kocenski said.

A large percentage of the visitors said they were regulars. They said they'll be at Florida National Cemetery on Veterans Day, and then again at Christmas.