For the first time since the pandemic began, San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio hosted a full Memorial Day ceremony Monday.
Prior to COVID, the ceremony was considered a landmark event to honor America's fallen soldiers.
This year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla attended the event, which became especially important for a mother who's son was killed in action in Iraq.
Maria Lourdes, a Gold Star mother, lost her son Mark Caguioa who died after his humvee hit an explosive device.
But being part of the ceremony isn't the most critical part of this event for her. Meeting Anthony Brown is.
"This is our first meeting actually," said former army Anthony Brown. "I served with her son in the military. So I come visit him every year."
We just happen to miss each other every year and so we organized it this year that we would meet for the first time," he told NBC Bay Area.
They've communicated for years on social media, but this is their first time talking face to face.
"What's it like meeting him?," NBC Bay Area's Sergio Quintana asked Lourdes.
"Oh, it's like a son I never met or something," she responded with a smile.
For those who have attended many of these ceremonies, the formality of uniforms, brass bands and even the tradition of the rifle honor guard can become almost procedural.
That all changes when Maria Lourdes and Anthony Brown walk together to Caguioa's grave site.
Brown shared bittersweet memories of his service with 21-year-old Army Specialist Mark Caguoia.
"We lived in such horrible conditions overseas," Brown said.
"One of our other friends who died that day, he was an amateur rap artist, and he would always tell the funniest jokes," he said. "He would always made Caguioa laugh."
Honoring service to the country together, and sharing memories of a loved one who gave everything to his country is why they needed to spend this Memorial Day together.
HONORING SERVICE TO THE COUNTRY TOGETHER - AND SHARING MEMORIES OF A LOVED ONE WHO GAVE EVERYTHING TO HIS COUNTRY -
IS WHY *THEY* NEEDED TO SPEND THIS MEMORIAL DAY *TOGETHER*.
IN SAN FRANCISCO - SERGIO QUINTANA - NBC BAY AREA NEWS.