With the American flag fluttering in one hand, 5-year-old Will Tornes raised his hand to salute the veterans passing by Mound Cemetery during Marietta's annual Memorial Day Parade Monday.
"I like this day because it honors the American flag," said Tornes, of Marietta, who in between salutes helped 4-year-old sister Eva collect candy.
Just up the road, 8-year-old Aaron Vessels waited excitedly for the parade to pass his home on Fifth Street.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Brothers Aaron Vessels, 8, and Eli Vessels, 4, watch reverently as the Marietta Memorial Day parade passes by their Fifth Street home Monday.
Decked out in the Army uniform he received for Christmas, Vessels had a variety of reasons he celebrates Memorial Day.
"For the military, my uncle, my dad, my mom," he said, citing some of the many service men and women he knows.
Hundreds of revelers, young and old, braved a light rain and lined the streets of Marietta Monday to watch the parade, which began at Muskingum Park and 10 a.m. and made a stop in Mound Cemetery before ending with a service at Oak Grove Cemetery.
At a glance
Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was officially proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868.
During that first observance, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The holiday evolved as American soldiers lost their lives in subsequent wars, and gradually became known as Memorial Day.
The day officially became a federal holiday when Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, officially scheduling the holiday for the last Monday in May.
Earlier in the day, a solemn procession comprised of area military groups, city officials, and community members, wound its way through Harmar Village for the annual Harmar Memorial Day Parade. The Harmar parade, which began at 8 a.m., stopped at Harmar Cemetery to pay tribute to all fallen soldiers and then traveled to the Putnam Street Bridge to release a wreath into the Muskingum River in honor those who died at sea.
Watching the Harmar parade from the corner of Maple and Franklin Streets, Marietta resident and former Marine Bill Burton pointed out that our military service men and women are responsible for all the little freedoms we so often take for granted.
"It's Memorial Day where we honor those who gave their lives so we can stand here and drink coffee at a stop sign," he said.
One important part of Memorial Day is sharing its importance with the youth, said Marietta resident Bob Almond, 72. He and wife Susan brought neighbors 12-year-old Andrew and 9-year-old Noah Schmidt to watch the Marietta parade from Putnam Street.
"They wanted to honor the veterans so we brought them down," said Bob.
Added Susan, "I think it's important to honor veterans every way we can. They don't' ever get enough."
In the Harmar parade, 3-year-old Cameron Lipscomb was all smiles as he marched hand in hand with his dad, Adam, 27.
A Marine himself, Lipscomb said it's important to him to honor his fellow soldiers.
"I'm proud to honor this day for those who are serving and who have served and to teach my son what it means," said Adam.
The importance of the holiday was also a lesson handed down from the grandfathers of two Marietta Bible College students. Peter Mokahalana, 35, of Papua New Guinea and Donel Rodriguez, 27, of the Philippines both had grandfathers who aided the American cause in WWII.
Mokahalana's grandfather, who was brutally disfigured when captured by Japanese forces, always instilled in Mokahalana a sense of respect for the military.
"He was one that always taught us to respect those Americans who fought for us," he said.
Added Rodriguez, whose grandfather spied for American forces while a cook in Japan, "Douglas MacArthur came to (my island) Leyte while the war was going on and said "I shall return.' Two years later he came back and rescued us. Those words are famous where I'm from."
Mokahalana and Rodriguez wore American flag ties as they marched with the Disabled Americans Veterans Unit 52 of Whipple in the Marietta parade, carrying their banner.
Williamstown resident Glenda Kodrich, 57, began to tear up as she spoke of the importance of the holiday and sharing it with her family, particularly her 5-year-old grandson.
"His mom and dad and us have brought him here every year. We just want him to be grateful to our veterans for what they've done," she said.
Tucked under an umbrella with her family on Putnam Street, Kodrich greeted those in the Marietta parade with a small sign that said it all: "Thank you."