Ed "Shorty" Krauel was attending his first Memorial Day parade.
The 91-year-old veteran stood and smiled Saturday as high school bands marched by, and he stood again as he saluted fellow military men.
"We sure feel sorry for those that aren't with us and I feel mighty lucky that the man upstairs didn't want me back then and I'm still here," he said.
Mr. Krauel, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946 and returned to duty for a short stint during the Korean War, was one of many who participated in Toledo's Memorial Day activities.
A member of the crew of a PT boat during his time in the Navy, Mr. Krauel has had regular reunions with his fellow servicemen.
So Mr. Krauel's daughter, Ruth Gora of Sylvania, thought he would enjoy being with other veterans at the downtown parade.
She was right about her chatty, spunky father, whose goal is to live to the age of 100.
"Oh, this is a great time," said Mr. Krauel, who proudly wore a U.S. Navy Veteran cap and a shirt emblazoned with an American flag.
Jackson Street was lined with people waving the Stars and Stripes, the youngest of them perched on the curbs before they darted out for saltwater taffy and other treats tossed by parade participants.
Political candidates and their supporters in campaign T-shirts also were on hand, a sure sign of an election year.
The parade itself was a long line of military organizations, police units, and high school marching bands.
Organizers estimate about 2,000 spectators were downtown to view the parade made up of 45 groups.
As they waved to nearly everyone who passed in the parade, the Fernandeses of West Toledo remembered family members who served in World War II and thought of their loved one currently in the Navy SEALs.
Tamara Fernandes, the mother of four young children, all of them dressed in black shirts and military hats, said Memorial Day is about supporting the troops.
She could be heard thanking everyone who went by in uniform.
"It's important we teach our children we have our freedom because of the men and women who serve in the wars and defend our country," she said.
The children - Sydney, 13; Elijah, 11; Jude, 9, and Philomenia, 8 - were quick learners about the holiday.
And it wasn't hard for them to pay attention, because each had their a favorite part of the event. For Sydney it was the Army Jeeps and marching bands.
Jude was a fan of the machine gun mounted on a tank that rumbled by.
Elijah was not alone in his enjoyment of the Shriners driving their small cars.
The Schneider family, also of West Toledo, have come to the parade for the past few years.
Tania and Jason Schneider and their children Deven, 12; Amelia, 10, and Caitlin, 3, also said it's important for people to take time to honor the true meaning of the holiday.
"It's important to support our troops currently and all our fallen soldiers and everyone who fought for our freedom," Mrs. Schneider said.
That sentiment was echoed by this year's grand marshal, Brig. Gen. Paula G. Thornhill, a Sylvania native who is commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
"This day is not about us. It's about those we pay tribute to," she said, adding that it was a day to remember, honor, and serve.
General Thornhill told the crowd to remember the past and the sacrifices necessary to build the nation, to honor fallen soldiers and learn from their character, and to serve the country, whether in uniform or in the community, to be a part of continuing a great democracy.
Ohio Sen. Teresa Fedor, a U.S. Air Force veteran; Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop also addressed the smaller crowd that stayed for the service after the parade.
At the ceremony, covered chairs, each with a hat from the nation's branches of military service, were in place to honor those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
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