FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Memorial Day Parade returned this year to Freehold, New Jersey, where streets were packed with crowds dressed in red, white and blue and waiving American flags.

After a year of no mass gatherings, it was heartening to see hundreds of people come out to honor those who died while protecting this country, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported.

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Freehold’s Memorial Day parade is the oldest and largest in western Monmouth County, with an average of more than 70 units participating each year. There were military units, veterans groups, EMS squads, and even Gov. Phil Murphy made an appearance.

With so many Memorial Day events canceled last year because of COVID, families said it was important to show their support this year and remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Bob Degennaro, a Navy veteran who lives on Staten Island, stood with his camera, hoping to document his 15-year-old grandson marching with the Colts Neck ROTC. He choked up, reflecting on the significance of the holiday to him.

“I grew up with a lot of benefits, and there were a lot of young people who served and never came home,” Degennaro said. “So we have to remember these people and those who served — men, women — and who are still serving, who are not coming home. It’s very important we support our military and our government. That’s what it means to me.”

“This is like our version of Mayberry 1950. There’s nothing like walking down the street of Main Street in Freehold Township and seeing little kids saluting the flag and old men wearing faded uniforms. It’s just really something special,” former Freehold Mayor David Salkin added.

Families said the crowd size was similar to those pre-COVID, and they particularly enjoyed seeing the faces of everyone in the parade without the need for masks — a sign the pandemic might finally be over.

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Other Memorial Day events were held Monday in Bergenfield, Fair Lawn and Edgewater.

In Edgewater, members of the American Legion held a somber ceremony, while In Fair Lawn, first lady Tammy Murphy reflected on the heavy cost of democracy.

“It’s a great day to remember all of our servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate price, and given the ultimate sacrifice for this, for us,” she said.

Back in Freehold, Jacquie Revier brought her 2-year-old granddaughter to her first parade. Military roots run deep in their family. Her son currently serves.

“It’s sentimental also because my mom would take my children and now I’m taking my grandchild. It’s an amazing holiday, especially because we didn’t have Memorial Day last year,” Revier said.

They continue to pass on the sacrifices of our nation’s military from generation to generation, ensuring it is never gotten.

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CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team