Not too many years ago, believe it or not, I was a kid.
Growing up in Carteret, N.J., it was more the norm than the unusual to sit at the curb on one of the main thoroughfares in my hometown and watch as decorated veterans paraded past on Memorial Day.
Also in the parade were bands, dignitaries, firemen and fire trucks, police officers and cars, emergency personnel and vehicles, community groups, veteran organizations and such.
Everyone turned out for the parade. My dad marched. I had uncles who did, too.
I always thought it was cool to sit on the curb and wave at people in the parade. I knew many of them because they knew my mom or dad. Both my parents were lifelong residents of the town where they were born.
It wasn't unusual for the mayor, who was also our family doctor, to wave and say hi. The guy from the corner store where I would buy my baseball cards waved. A good friend's mom or dad would wave.
When I became a Cub Scout and later a Boy Scout, my place on Memorial Day went from curbside watching to walking the parade route. That afforded me a chance to wave to those sitting on the curb, in lawn chairs on the sidewalk or leaning up against a car or tree.
The parade would end at Carteret Park where there would be a ceremony and service for the fallen military, as well as those veterans still living.
A few days leading up to Memorial Day, the park would be transformed into a cemetery, of sorts. The green grass fields surrounding the soldiers and sailors memorial would be lined with rows and rows of small white crosses and American flags for Memorial Day.
There would be speeches and a 21-gun salute.
Prior to the parade, the Blue Star Mothers would have breakfast. After the ceremonies, many of the organizations would have gatherings at their buildings.Those who didn't attend an organizations gather would head home to spend the rest on the day at the pool and cooking out.
Carteret had a long tradition of honoring its residents who served in the military. The town, home to Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Pvt. Nicholas Minue, still does.
During this year's Memorial Day service, Mayor Dan Rieman, who is younger than me and probably marched in many parades, noted the importance of our American veterans.
"We do not need a lot of words or long speeches to express our gratitude, and I hope that, you have the opportunity to say it, a simple - and genuine - thank you to our veterans," Rieman said in his speech, which was posted on his Facebook page.
I never really thought much about the Memorial Days of the past. I guess the memories were buried somewhere under the muck and junk that fills my head. But the words of retired U.S. Army Col. Fred Bosarge created an opportunity to recall those past days.
Bosarge was the guest speaker last Sunday at the Greenwood County Memorial Day Ceremony at Oakbrook Memorial Park and Mausoleum.
Bosarge asked people to remember the fallen, and to remember and say thanks to a living veteran who played an important role in their lives.
"They happened to come back," Bosarge said. "They are due no less respect than are those who are deceased. It's important to know they are the ones who now will carry on the proud traditions of the American veterans."
We're having fewer and fewer parades and events to honor our service personnel, but they still exist.
Rieman's words reminded me of those spoken by Bosarge.
We are a proud country and, as such, we should pay tribute to those who helped assure our freedoms as we live in the greatest nation in the world.
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and does not represent the newspaper's opinion.