At Wednesday's Hoboken Memorial Day Parade, the sun could not be seen through the gloomy skies, but the elements didn't keep the spectators from lining the streets at the annual event.
While Memorial Day isn't officially until Monday, Hoboken veterans traditionally come out the Wednesday before for the parade.
To the many veterans, Memorial Day, which has a history stretching back to the Civil War, is an important reminder of those who died in the service of the country.
The grand marshal of this year's parade was World War II army veteran William Perry. From 1942 to 1945, Perry, 81, served overseas in Africa, Italy, and Sicily, where he spent much of his time as a member of an anti-aircraft artillery unit that was used to strike German airplanes that were on route to bomb allied forces. As the war progressed, his unit moved into the Italian peninsula and fought its way to southern Germany, where a bullet to the head eventually wounded him. He has received five combat ribbons, five bronze stars, and the Purple Heart.
Perry said that truly enjoyed his experience as the grand marshal of this year's parade.
"Even though the weather wasn't the best, it was a terrific parade," said the vibrant Perry. "We truly are the luckiest country in the world."
He said that observing Memorial Day is important because it shows respect for the veterans who have fought for America, but it also represents an opportunity for people in the community to come together. "My theory is that if we can get people together for a purpose and common goal, we're all better off for it," said Perry.
Vinny Wassman, a combat veteran who served two years in the Korean War, said Memorial Day and the veneration for local and national veterans is now more important than ever. "It's important to keep their [the veteran's] memory alive," said Wassman, "because the more veterans that pass away, the less you're going to hear about [what they did for this country]."
Word War II Air Force veteran Jimmy Pasquale said Memorial Day is also an opportunity to teach younger generations about the country's history. "One thing Memorial Day does is remind younger people about the sacrifices that veterans have made. There are a lot of people out there that don't know about the impact that they've had on the freedom that we have today."
Neil Murphy, who also served in the Air Force in World War II, said Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember those who fought to make America the country that it is today.
"It's for the boys that came before us," he said shortly before the parade began. "It's a day for all of the patriots that started it all."
Leading off this year's parade was the color guard from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, followed by dozens of veterans from Hoboken and surrounding communities, all of whom were waving a small American flag to the applauding crowd.
Also in the parade were the officers from the Hoboken Police Department and Hoboken Fire Department in dress uniforms; several area High School marching bands, including the one from Hoboken High School; the Hoboken High School First Responders; the Hoboken Voluteer Ambulance Corp; area Boy and Girl Scouts; local drum and fife corps; and representatives from each branch of the armed forces.
Memorial Day was originally proclaimed Decoration Day on May 5, 1868. After the Civil War, many people in the north and south decorated graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. The name was officially changed to Memorial Day in 1882. In 1971, the day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday in May.