BROCKTON (CBS) – Volunteers placed 1,500 wreaths on the graves of veterans at Melrose Cemetery in Brockton Friday. It’s a symbol of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

“It just makes you feel like you’re giving back after everything they did for us,” said Gail Kubek, a volunteer.

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This year’s wreath-laying ceremony falls on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, so the organizer decided to dedicate this tribute to 97-year-old George Hursey, a Brockton veteran who survived that attack exactly 77 years ago today.

George Hursey. (WBZ-TV)

“The memories are still there, still bright as day,” said Hursey. “You could see all Pearl Harbor, it was a mess, ships burning.”

Hursey is one of only two remaining Pearl Harbor survivors in Massachusetts and he’s the last one living from his battalion of 120 men. He wasn’t able to attend Friday’s ceremony, but his son says they are grateful for the recognition.

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George Hursey. (Family photo)

“It’s just wonderful that they’re doing this and I think everybody today should take a moment of silence someplace along the line and thank these World War II veterans. We can’t ever forget,” said Dennis Hursey.

1,500 wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans at Melrose Cemetery in Brockton, Dec. 7, 2018. (WBZ-TV)

This tradition was started by Mary Waldron four years ago. After the sudden loss of her husband John, she started the nonprofit organization called “Just Checking In” to continue his legacy of giving back. The group purchases the wreaths each year to lay on the veterans’ graves.

“The wreaths symbolize a circle and that circle is for eternity that we will for always remember who they are,” said Waldron. “Our veterans need to be remembered during the holidays.”

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Waldron says she hopes to raise more money next year so they will have enough wreaths to lay on all of the veterans’ graves. She says there are about 2,500 at Melrose Cemetery.

Anna Meiler