"It's an honored tradition in Sharpsburg," said Betty Snyder as she explained Miss Poppy's duties, which include handing out poppies and collecting donations for the veterans hospital. "This parade is the best. It's small-town USA at its finest."
John Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, agreed.
"It's more than a cookout in the backyard," said Howard, who thinks that Sharpsburg has a better sense of the day's purpose than most parade towns.
"It's a day we remember the sacrifices of soldiers," said Howard, whose son is serving in the Coast Guard in California. "Here in Sharpsburg, it's easy to feel that."
Derek Christ was one of three members of the military from Sharpsburg honored in this year's parade.
Each rode in a vehicle draped with banners that said "Welcome Home!"
Christ, who just returned from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan, said he was proud to be part of the event.
"It's really nice to be asked to do it, especially in your hometown," Christ said.
Daniel Fitzgerald and Patrick Fogle, both of whom recently returned from 9-month tours in Iraq, also said they were honored to be included in the parade.
As the color guard came through the square, men dropped their caps to their hearts.
Several red, white and blue wreaths from the American Legion were laid in front of the World War, Korean and Vietnam monuments in front of Town Hall.
People cheered when military equipment and representatives from the Sons of Confederate Veterans came through.
"The sense of community and patriotism is something special," said Sheila McDowell, who attended the parade with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in a carriage outfit despite suffering from a six-week bout with bronchitis.
While she didn't march, she waited at the end of the parade route for her colleagues.
"I've been doing this for about seven years, and it's always something you want to do," McDowell said. "You want to come out and see the town come out to honor our veterans and show their sense of patriotism. It's really special."
Today's Memorial Day observances
- Cedar Lawn Memorial Park at 17636 Washington St. in Hagerstown will hold its annual Memorial Day service at 11 a.m.
Featured speakers are Maryland state Sen. Donald Munson and retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Fred L. Shinbur, chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission.
The American Legion Honor Guard will conduct a memorial wreath ceremony and service. Music and complimentary beverages will be provided, and balloons will be released.
- Morris Frock American Legion Post 42 will host Memorial Day activities at 2 p.m. in front of the Washington County Courthouse.
Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Maryland state Sen. Donald F. Munson will speak following the traditional wreath-laying ceremony.
- A Memorial Day observance in Boonsboro will begin at 1 p.m. with a wreath-laying service in front of Town Hall.
A parade will follow at 2 p.m., beginning at the Boonsboro school complex and traveling along Main Street to Reeder's Alley.
- The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania is sponsoring its second annual Memorial Day observance at The Church of the Transfiguration in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., to honor military, police, fire and first-response personnel who have given their lives in service to their nation.
The observance will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a concert by the Appalachian Wind Quintet, followed by a memorial service at 6 p.m.