Some carried American flags, or wore outfits of red, white and blue. All came for one purpose: to remember.
“It’s an important part of our lives, the veterans and what they did for us,” said North Wildwood resident Barbara Vance as she and her husband, Richard, waited for one of two of the city’s two Memorial Day ceremonies to begin.
The couple was among the thousands of people across the region who stopped Monday to recognize that Memorial Day’s origins go beyond a long weekend and the start of the shore’s tourist season.
Parades were held throughout the area. Memorial wreaths were placed at monuments, graves and even in the ocean.
Families privately remembered their loved ones, while others came together at ceremonies large and small.
“Wherever the body of a comrade dies, the ground is hallowed,” said VFW Post 4591 Commander Joe Orlando. “Today we honor deceased veterans from all wars since the Revolutionary War.”
Orlando, an Air Force veteran, and his fellow veterans handed out roses to those attending the city’s second ceremony of the morning. Then, one by one, men, women and children placed them on the city’s veterans monument.
“It’s a nice tribute to our veterans,” said Bayville, Berkeley Township resident Linda Conway as she listened to the service.
Conway dressed her Yorkshire terrier, Jessa, in a dress covered in the colors of the American flag.
Not far away, Michele Murianka, her husband, Stephen, and 9-year-old son Matthew also listened. The Philadelphia family has a home in the city.
Murianka said the family was at dinner recently when they encountered a group of veterans handing out flags, so they accepted one and brought it to Monday’s ceremony.
“To honor our veterans,” she said of her reasons from taking time out of the family’s weekend plans to attend. “My father’s a deceased veteran. My husband’s father is a deceased veteran.”
Orlando told the crowd the holiday got its start soon after the Civil War. It originated as Decoration Day and was renamed Memorial Day in 1966.
“The final roll call has been answered by our comrades,” he said.
As for himself and combat veterans who returned home, he said, “We’re the lucky ones. We survived.”
At the Cape May County Veterans’ Cemetery later in the day, a large crowd gathered as row after row of American flags lined the graves here.
Charles Adelizzi, of the county Veterans’ Bureau, said more than 5,000 veterans have been buried here since the cemetery opened in 1980.
“Young Americans have stood up and served their country and have bled and died for their country,” Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said.
He said the sacrifices obligated Americans to remember and to support to U.S. servicemen and women around the world today.
Freeholder Kristine Gabor said the obligation extends to those with no military ties.
“We owe it to them to live with honor and integrity,” she said.