LEESBURG, Fla. -- While the fireworks on the Fourth of July will be beautiful, they symbolize the fight our founding fathers fought for our Freedom.

  • WWII vet honored at nursing home
  • Robert Merka honored as part of Cornerstone Salutes program

"​I graduated high school on a Wednesday, and Thursday morning I was in the army," said World War II Army Veteran Robert Merka.

At just 18 years old, Robert Merka, fluent in German, found himself on his way to a country he had never been but one his ancestors called home.

At just 18, Merka grew up quickly -- fighting during World War II. 

Remembering those lost during the war brought Merka to tears. But at the mention of the Fourth of July, those tears were replaced with joy. 

"Independence day? You know!” Merka said with a smile on his face. “It's freedom for our country." 

This Independence Day, Cornerstone Hospice teamed up with Avante nursing home to honor several of their residents who are veterans. 

Merka was one of those honored, and upon receiving a U.S. flag pen, and a salute from a fellow officer part of the Cornerstone Salutes program, he was compelled to tears.

He says the tears were because he knows it's his fellow veterans and those who did not survive the wars who made this day and celebration possible. 

"It's not just a holiday, it's not just a picnic. It's about remembering what this holiday is all about," Merka said. 

​Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care Inc. is a not-for-profit community organization, which has launched Cornerstone Salutes to honor U.S. veterans. 

For more information about the program or organization, visit: www.cornerstonehospice.org