People lined the streets and roamed solemnly about Beaufort National Cemetery on Thursday to honor the service of more than 18,000 American veterans living in Beaufort County.
Hundreds turned out for Beaufort's annual Veterans Day parade and a ceremony that followed at the cemetery.
With two pint-sized American flags tucked into the back of his baseball cap, John LeSeviere of Beaufort stood near the intersection of Boundary and Rodgers streets, while the parade featuring local high school marching bands, junior ROTC groups and area veterans service organizations made its way toward downtown.
As the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Band marched past in dress blues, blaring the notes of a patriotic march, LeSeviere said the parade was a fitting tribute to veterans.
"Veterans Day should be a big day in Beaufort," LeSeviere said. "When you consider how many veterans live in our area and how many active-duty military folks live in our area, they deserve this kind of recognition. They've earned it."
After the parade, commanders and representatives from Beaufort's three military bases joined more than 100 residents and local government officials to again thank veterans for their service, during a earnest, hour-long ceremony just inside the front gates of Beaufort National Cemetery.
Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, said the holiday reminds him of the common thread of valor that bonds those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam with those currently fighting in Afghanistan.
"A new generation of Americans has stepped up and volunteered to protect our nation and our way of life," Padilla said. "These young Americans are inspired by those who have gone before and are cut from the same cloth as those who stormed the beaches of Normandy and raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. They recognize, as their predecessors did, that freedom is not free."
Veterans Day was first observed in November 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson created Armistice Day to commemorate the Nov. 11, 1918, signing of the treaty that ended World War I. Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938, and Congress changed its name to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all U.S. veterans.
Howard Metcalf, the interim director of the S.C. Office of Veterans Affairs, said that one day is not enough to adequately thank veterans for what they've done for the nation.
"They might designate one day each year as Veterans Day, but the blessings we get from you all" last year-round, Metcalf said.