Civilians and current and former military members who gathered Monday under the live oaks and palm trees at Beaufort National Cemetery were urged to pause and remember those who gave everything in the nation's defense.
"This is a day for both memory and meaning, for remembering and for respect," keynote speaker Rev. E. Terri LaVelle, who works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, told about 400 people who attended the event.
"In this place and in so many other places across America and around the world, people will struggle to find words that can give proper honor to the lives of our departed," she continued.
Earlier Monday, about 500 people attended Memorial Day events at Shelter Cove Park on Hilton Head Island, according to organizer Gene Sullivan.
Col. Wayne Jones, commanding officer of the recruit Training Regiment at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, reminded the audience about the origins of Memorial Day and its meaning for veterans' families.
The Hilton Head Choral Society provided patriotic music for the event and Mayor Drew Laughlin read a proclamation.
Beaufort's Memorial Day observance began at 10 a.m. with an hour-long parade that ran down Boundary and Bay streets before ending near the national cemetery.
People lined sidewalks and watched from balconies as marching bands from local high schools, veterans groups, and members of the county's three military installations passed.
A group from the Scheper Tennis Academy, which carried an improvised net, kept a rally going for almost a dozen strokes while marching forward along Bay Street. Antique cars from the Sheldon Classic Car Club, including a Nash Rambler and Oldsmobile 442 muscle car, drew oohs and ahhs from onlookers.
Bill Freeman, a Beaufort resident who spent 35 years in the Navy, including six years on active duty, said the parade did not disappoint.
"It was as good as it usually is," he said. "I just like the whole thing."
Jerry Garrison, a Lady's Island resident watching his first parade since moving to the area six months ago from Charleston, said the parade was "outstanding."
"I really liked it," said Garrison, who served two tours in Vietnam and also served in Korea during his "22 years, six months and 17 days" in the Army. "I really liked the military parts (of the parade) but overall I thought it was great."
The Memorial Day Ceremony that followed at the national cemetery featured an invocation by Rev. Alexander McBride and a proclamation from Beaufort County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville.
Beaufort Elementary School students Payten and Paris Grubbs recited President Abraham Lincoln's entire Gettysburg Address, and music was provided by the Parris Island Marine Band.
Poignant moments included the laying of the Memorial Wreath by members of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Women's Relief Corps, and a ceremony honoring prisoners of war and soldiers officially listed as missing in action.
Rev. Elijah Washington, a veteran who helped organize the day's events, implored the audience to remember the meaning of Memorial Day.
"We're here to give honor to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so you and I can enjoy the freedoms we enjoy," he said. "Let us not forget to remember, and may God bless America."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.