A crowd gathered in Green Island Wednesday to pay tribute to veterans and their commitment to protecting the nation's freedom.

Also, five local veterans from World War II and the Korean War received high school diplomas posthumously.

“We honor several Heatly students and local residents who left us as boys to fight in wars miles from the shores of the Hudson River,” said Tiffany Dzembo, assistant superintendent of accountability, assessment and technology innovation at the school in Green Island.

Other families collected various recognitions, including Purple Hearts and the New York State Liberty Award.

“He was an amazing man. He was one of my best friends, my grandfather,” Brendan Duffy of Waterford said of William Ned Haggerty, who fought in the Korean War on Pork Chop Hill. “It’s so nice to see him still being honored today.”

Duffy continued, “He was wounded twice. One was from grenade shrapnel, and then he was later hit by mortar fire. That took him out of the war. A few days later his platoon was ambushed.”

Joe Legnard’s uncle, whose first name was John, and his father, whose first name was Frank, were honored for their service in World War I and World War II, respectively.

Legnard said ceremonies like the one held Wednesday are invaluable.

“Talking about them and learning about them is important for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said. “And they should know that the wonderful life we enjoy here in America is a result of tremendous sacrifices made by their ancestors.”