Hundreds of Beaufort residents paused Friday to honor and thank thousands of local veterans and active-duty Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen for their service and sacrifice.
People lined the streets to take in Beaufort County's annual Veterans Day parade as it snaked through downtown, then toward Beaufort National Cemetery.
Barry Lewis of Beaufort and his two children waved American flags as floats carrying local dignitaries and veterans crept past.
Lewis' father fought in the Korean War, and he said Americans would do well to remember what those men and their families endured for their country.
"I don't think we, as those who didn't serve, can imagine what it's like to be in that situation," Lewis said. "Fighting in that war changed my father, for better and for worse. We should all be grateful for what they've done for all of us. Without them, we'd be nowhere in this country. They are the best of us."
After the parade, commanders and representatives of Beaufort's three military bases led a solemn hourlong ceremony just inside the cemetery gates.
Though often thought of as a holiday to honor veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Veterans Day should be a time to pay tribute to those still fighting America's battles, too, said Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Reynolds delivered an emotional keynote address memorializing several Marines with whom she served who were killed in Iraq. They include Cpl. Dustin Sides, a 22-year-old Washington state native killed by an IED in 2004.
Sides was an example of the caliber of young person serving in today's military, she said.
"Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population wears the uniform of one of our armed forces," Reynolds said. "They are the 1 percent that really matters. They are the 1 percent upon which our nation's future truly relies. We are going into our 10th straight year of armed conflict, and we have a new generation of war-fighters who have sacrificed their youth in defense of our freedom, democracy and the country they love."
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