MARIETTA - Ralph Phelps rose early Monday morning to see the Harmar District Memorial Day Parade, an event he's witnessed annually since he moved to Harmar in 1953.
"It used to be a lot bigger. They had a band and my daughter played in the band when she was younger," he said. "But I still watch it every year."
Monday's procession followed the traditional route from Harmar Elementary School to the Harmar Cemetery Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108 in Marietta held a memorial ceremony to honor America's fallen soldiers.
Scouts from Troop 215 in Williamstown marched in the city’s annual Memorial Day parade Monday from Tomlinson Park to the Riverview Cemetery on Waverly Road. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
Chellie Province watched from the corner of Harmar Avenue and Lancaster Street.
"My mom and dad and I used to watch this parade from our front porch on Lancaster Street - and my family still does," she said. "It was larger then, and I think it should get back to being larger, considering what this day is for."
About 50 people gathered in the Harmar Cemetery graveyard to take part in the event and pay respects to those who died in service to their country.
On the way back across the Putnam Bridge into downtown Marietta, VFW members paused to toss a wreath into the Muskingum River in honor of those soldiers who died at sea.
Meanwhile across the Ohio River in Williamstown, units were gathering for that city's Memorial Day parade from Tomlinson Park to the Riverview Cemetery along Waverly Road.
Several motorcyclists were taking part in this year's parade.
"These are the Legion Riders from Post 169 American Legion in Williamstown, and it's our first time in the parade," explained Lydia Dowler, the legion's secretary.
She said the motorcycle group has a total membership of 31, although not all of them rode in Saturday's parade.
"We just formed the riders this spring and they're all Legion members or family of Legion members," Dowler said.
Nearby Ed Landis, 45, and Todd Offenberger, 21, active members of the U.S. Naval Reserve, have both served recent tours of duty in Iraq. They also marched in the Williamstown parade as members of the Vienna, W.Va., Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8127.
"I think there's been an increased interest in Memorial Day activities since the Iraq war," Landis said.
The sailors joined ranks in the parade with veterans from the VFW and American Legion, scouts from Williamstown Troop 215, the Williamstown High School Marching Band, various local dignitaries, fire and rescue trucks from the Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department, and an assortment of kids on red, white and blue-decorated bicycles.
The procession ended with a Memorial Day ceremony at the veterans memorial in the center of Riverview Cemetery.
Back across the Ohio River, people lined Front, Putnam, Fifth and Wooster streets to witness Marietta's annual Memorial Day parade.
John Licklider, another U.S. Navy veteran and native of Dayton, watched the parade with 5-year-old son, Jackson, on Fifth Street near Mound Cemetery.
"His grandfather was killed in Vietnam, so he understands what Memorial Day is all about," John said.
"It's saying 'thank you' for the people who fight for our freedom," Jackson explained.
On Wooster Street Bob Ferguson was handing out ice cold bottles of water, juice, hot coffee and snacks to weary passers-by following the parade route to Oak Grove Cemetery.
"We do this every yeaar," he said. "It's just fun to see everybody out watching the parade. That's what this town is supposed to be like, and we're supposed to share with our neighbors."
Marietta Councilman Andy Thompson said the annual parade moves through some of the city's great neighborhoods.
"It's nice that they march through such an historic part of town to Oak Grove, which is a beautiful cemetery and a real local treasure," he said.
Mayor Michael Mullen said Monday's Memorial Day celebration was especially poignant for him as his father, Harold Mullen, a Korean War veteran, died in March.
As an officer with American Legion Post 64, Harold Mullen was among the other veterans who had passed since Memorial Day 2009.
"But this has always been a special day for Marietta and to see members of the community out in such numbers," the mayor added.
Barb Handschumacher, past commander of Post 64, was the keynote speaker during the Memorial Day ceremony at Oak Grove Cemetery.
"We must remember our patriots, our heroes, our freedom," she said of American soldiers who have paid the ultimate price from 1775 to the present day.
"We can and must remember them all," Schumacher said. "But remembering them once a year on Memorial Day is not enough. We have to continue to remember those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
"Remember that tyranny and genocides have been stopped because American soldiers have sacrificed their lives on the battlefield," she said. "Let us always remember them."