Charles Trite said he attended the Veterans Day ceremony Friday in Smithsburg to honor the memory of his former brother-in-law, Harry Brown.
A U.S. Marine, Brown died at Iwo Jima in 1945.
"I enjoy coming to these ceremonies," Trite said. "It's something I feel I should do."
The 81-year-old Trite said he also felt like he needed to do something in 1945. That's when, at age 15, he convinced his mother to sign a form that allowed him to enlist in the Navy. Although the war was over by the time he joined, Trite said he sailed to Europe as a deckhand on a light cruiser.
"You were a society back then when you felt you had to do something to help," he said. "I wanted to serve my country before it was too late. I was late getting there, but I made it."
Trite said he was discharged in 1946 and returned home to the Penn-Mar area. He said he became an electrician by trade, worked at Camp David and graduated from Hagerstown Junior College without having a high school diploma.
"The union put me through," he said.
Trite said he finally received his high school diploma when he graduated with the Smithsburg High School Class of 2006.
About 100 people attended the chilly ceremony at Veterans Park, where the Smithsburg Middle School Band played patriotic music, and veterans laid wreaths.
Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers also welcomed home Lt. Col. Joseph Gardenhour, a 1988 Smithsburg High School graduate who is stationed at the Pentagon and has been deployed numerous times to the Middle East with the U.S. Air Force.
Gardenhour was this year's guest speaker.
"I will tell you that for anybody who has spent any time in the Middle East, once you come back you certainly have a better appreciation for what you have here in the States," he said. "I'll tell you that during that time it was a little bit of an eye-opener."
As an aircraft maintenance specialist, Gardenhour said he has been involved with multiple types of aircraft, including the B-1 bomber, the F-15E fighter and the F-22 stealth fighter.
He said one of the most memorable events in his 17 years of service was helping to prepare B-1s for missions in the Middle East shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Gardenhour said he considers it a privilege to serve this country. He also praised military families who stay at home to take care of things while their loved ones are overseas.
"Veterans are very special people," he said. "They've been very special to me over the last 17 years, and they will be a very special part in my life for years to come. They sacrifice in ways a lot of folks will never understand."