Thousands of Long Islanders went to community parades and visited cemeteries to honor soldiers and veterans on a bright and sunny Memorial Day, while others headed to beaches with family and friends to picnic and swim.

Local officials and paradegoers reflected on the meaning behind the national holiday: the sacrifice made by veterans. Greenport Mayor David Nyce saluted those "who gave their lives so we can sit around talking about such mundane things as how beautiful the weather is."

5:30 p.m., Wantagh: Beachgoers call it a day

The crowded sea of tired and sunburnt faces exiting Jones Beach told the story of the long Memorial Day weekend. Bright sunshine and warm temperatures brought record crowds to the beach this weekend, as some beachgoers lamented.

"We were a little disappointed by how crowded it was," said Adrianna Jelimek, who came with her husband and two children from Middle Village, Queens. "I wanted more peacefulness today, but we had a good time," she said.

Still, the waning hours of sunshine provided a last opportunity for everyone to catch some rays. Casey Cohen and her four friends arrived on the scene a little late Monday, and tried to make up for it by staying until the sun set.

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"We came because we haven't been to the beach all summer, and so we could get a little bit of a tan if possible," said Cohen, 23, an advertising account manager from Lynbrook.

Unlike the Jelimek family, however, the Lynbrook crew didn't mind the crowds. And like so many this long weekend, they were planning to barbecue their dinner Monday night, as they try to savor the last few moments of leisure time before they head back to work Tuesday.

3:30 p.m. Babylon: Cold water doesn't dampen beachgoers' enthusiasm

A breeze off the ocean didn't deter beachgoers at Robert Moses State Park on Monday afternoon. Though a handful of swimmers bathed in the water late into the afternoon, the 59-degree temperature did keep most planted on the sand.

"We dipped into the ocean, but it was too cold for me," said Brad Muken, 23, a small-business owner from Randolph, N.J.

Muken and his girlfriend, Nicole Gellert, of Plainview, and another couple played pitch-and-putt golf nearby in the park and planned to sunbathe until sunset, when they would all head home for a barbecue.

The Santaniello family of Holbrook spent the day swimming, collecting shells and playing catch in the sand. Parents Sebastian and Jennifer watched as their children Nicholas and Giuseppina swam in the brisk water.

"The first time I went in it was cold," said Giuseppina, 7. "The second time it was good. And the third time in, it was good."

Rocco Monserrat, 22, took his 4-year-old daughter out onto a sandbar that jutted up just a few feet into the ocean, where she enjoyed splashing around and collecting sea shells.

"Memorial Day is about spending time with family," said Monserrat, a Bay Shore resident. "We got here around 8:30 this morning and have been enjoying the warm weather all day."

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- EVAN KLONSKY

1:30 p.m. Seaford: Congressman calls war zone 'reality check'

Rep. Peter King (R-Syosset) said he was unshaven and jet-lagged when he showed up at his local Memorial Day ceremony.

"I was introduced, but didn't get much of a reaction. Then he said I was just back from Afghanistan and that got their attention," King said after the event.

"I think Americans do identify with the fight, even if they don't support it. They have a feel for the people who are there, who are doing the job," he said.

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King, who had gotten off the plane just hours before, said he had not been in Afghanistan for more than two years and he wanted to get up to speed with several important votes on homeland security issues coming up.

"And it's a reality check," he added. "People felt sorry for me because I was jet-lagged after the long flight. These guys are sitting out in the mountains for months. It puts things in perspective."

- WILLIAM MURPHY

1:30 p.m. Cold Spring Harbor: Families escape crowds, heat

Not everyone by Long Island Sound was looking to dig their toes in the sand Monday. Some preferred to carve out a cool spot in the shade next to the marina at Cold Spring Harbor.

"We figured we'd stop here to avoid the hot beach and being directly in the sun," said Debbie Iammarino, 38, of Syosset.

Debbie and her husband, Vincent, 42, had brought their young children, Natalie, Gianni and Vincent Jr., to the harbor. After spending Sunday at the beach in Oyster Bay, the family hoped to escape the crowds - and the sun.

Others took to the water on boats, kayaks and personal watercraft.

Mark Guttenberg of Plainview, in his yellow kayak, and his friend, Steven Abromowitz, riding a personal watercraft, spent a few hours on the water as their wives lounged on beach chairs beneath a tree off the marina.

"We came here to enjoy the water and avoid the crowd," said Guttenberg, 48, a retired accountant. Later, he said, "We'll head over to Bayville to have some seafood to round out the day."

- EVAN KLONSKY

1 p.m. Calverton: Ceremony sparks remembrances for veteran

Sitting in a chair in the shade, Alan Grossman, 70, of Yaphank, watched the ceremonies unfold Monday at Long Island National Cemetery at Calverton.

"It brings back a lot of memories," he said.

A Marine lance corporal, he proudly wore the Silver Star earned in a firefight in Cambodia - where he took three bullets. He also earned a Purple Heart.

Grossman, now an accountant, said he joined the service because his grades weren't good enough to keep up his college deferment. "I told my mother I was drafted," he said. Grossman tried the Army, Navy and Air Force recruiters, but all said their quotas for the month were full. So he became a Marine.

"My mother never knew I was in Vietnam," he said. "I told her I was in San Francisco."

About 1,500 people came Monday afternoon to Calverton, a national cemetery that opened in 1978. It took 6,000 volunteers to place 215,000 flags on the graves.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said he visits the cemetery several times a year and always has two emotions - sadness at the loss of so many loved ones and "a feeling of being uplifted. . . . Everything that makes America great is right here."

- MITCHELL FREEDMAN

12:30 p.m. Farmingdale: CIA officers saluted in Farmingdale

Their service - and their sacrifice - is usually secret.

But a crowd of 300 snapped photos and applauded at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, as federal and local officials saluted seven CIA officers and other employees killed in Afghanistan in December. The Americans, including two women, died at a remote post near the Pakistan border, when a Taliban-inspired agent detonated his explosive vest.

Organizers described the tribute at Republic Airport as the most public ever held for slain Central Intelligence Agency employees, whose deaths are usually commemorated only at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., or in hometown funerals. Representing the CIA was Michael J. Sulick, 62, a storied former undercover officer, now director of the agency's National Clandestine Service.

Sulick, who was raised in Manhattan, said he and his Langley colleagues were touched by the museum's invitation to participate in what he described as a "rare" public ceremony. "As a secret organization, we expect no recognition, no parades, no medals," Sulick added.

- JOHN HILDEBRAND

12:30 p.m. Mineola: Soldier's mom reflects on day's importance

Evelyn Roser, 55, of Mineola, whose son is serving in Iraq, stood in the shadow of a building as a respite from the sun to watch the Memorial Day parade in Mineola.

The day, she said, is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of others.

"How important it is that people support the soldiers and Marines and sailors," she said as the Chaminade High School band marched toward her, playing "God Bless America."

At the end of the parade, a crowd gathered at Mineola Memorial Park to hear short addresses from members of veterans groups and state, town and village dignitaries.

Mineola Mayor Jack Martins announced that a plaque honoring the first Mineola resident killed in World War I, which was removed from the park some years ago during renovations, will be replaced.

Wolfgang Porte, 72, of Mineola, who said he watches the parade every year, first served in the German air force and then the U.S. Army after he became a citizen.

Porte said he most enjoyed seeing the veterans marching in the procession.

"The true value of what they did - that is important," Porte said.

- JENNIFER BARRIOS

12:30 p.m. Bayville: Beachgoers and bikers hang out

A strong wind whipped off Long Island Sound at midday in Bayville, but Ransom Beach remained full.

A few beachgoers made their way into the water while others stayed on the sand, throwing footballs and tanning.

Meanwhile, other families spent the afternoon at Bayville Adventure Park and the restaurants across the street.

Iris and Douglas Laregina traveled from Great Neck with their daughter, Sophia, 18 months.

"The drive coming over here is real nice," said Douglas, 43, a construction inspector. "We thought it would be packed, but there really aren't that many people. It's great."

At the park, Melissa and Steven Meister took their daughter Micaela to play mini-golf and ride the bumper boats. The Meisters, who live nearby in Mill Neck, were on the way to a Memorial Day barbecue.

Local motorcycle riders also stopped by.

Gregg Marcus and Evan Bower had taken their Harleys on an hourlong ride to Huntington and Oyster Bay before arriving in Bayville.

Marcus, 44, real estate broker, said, "When I'm out on the bike, I always end up knocking through here and meeting up with a few friends."

- EVAN KLONSKY

10:30 a.m. Port Washington: Beachgoers relax and play

Beachgoers arriving early at North Hempstead Beach Park found a relatively quiet and peaceful atmosphere to enjoy the sun.

Stuart Bayer, 56, a real estate broker from Roslyn, relaxed beside Long Island Sound with his friend Merrill Winter, of Forest Hills.

"Where else could you come to a beach and there's nobody here?" said Winter, who works in the banking industry. "It's local, peaceful, never crowded and the best part is I didn't have to sit in traffic."

Other families took advantage of the holiday to get together and barbecue. As families set up picnics on the lawn, children clambered on the jungle gyms and other parkgoers strolled along the cement walkway just off the beach.

Ilya Muratov arrived at about 10 a.m. with his wife and two sons, ages 5 and 2. Joining the Muratovs was a group of eight other families from Queens.

"Everybody's off, so everybody wants to get together to have fun with the family," said Muratov, 30, a network engineer. "It's a nice environment - the $20 entrance fee is a little steep, but other than that, I can't complain."

- EVAN KLONSKY

10 a.m. Greenport: Colorful tribute to veterans

Paradegoers in Greenport wore American flag ties and T-shirts, and some of their dogs got into the act, too, with American-flag bandannas tied around their necks.

The area around the village's war memorial was awash in color as groups of people in blue American Legion jackets mingled with flag-bearers wearing crisp white shirts, Girl Scouts in green and tan, and the Greenport High School marching band in blue, purple and white.

As the ceremony was starting, others searched for a good place to watch the parade along the long march route.

In Southold, the Memorial Day parade moves each year, rotating among Greenport, Southold hamlet and Mattituck, and gets marchers from every part of the town.

During the brief talk before the parade began, Greenport Mayor David Nyce said many volunteers helped in the parade, including one who mowed the lawn and others who watered the flowers and scrubbed the monuments in the park.

One of the parade-watchers, Nancy Horton, has lived in Southold 41 years. "This is a way to show your patriotism for the people who have served," she said.

Her friend Jean Bradley said that unlike large parades in other places, there was a sense of intimacy in Greenport.

"You always know someone marching," she said.

- MITCHELL FREEDMAN

7:30 a.m. Orient: Parade crowd gathers

People started to gather so early at the Orient firehouse Monday morning for the Memorial Day parade that the only others who could be seen on the North Fork were farmers and golfers.

The only annual parade in the small North Fork hamlet has been taking place so long that no one there could remember when it started.

"It was after the Civil War," said Bob Reeves. "My mother used to ride in it. They marched here and then went to Sag Harbor."

"She was 5 years old for her first parade," he recalled. "That was in 1919."

There were more marchers than parade-watchers when the first Orient fire department trucks rolled down the road just before 8 a.m. They went out in a circle that stopped at five war memorials before heading back to the firehouse.

But though it started small, the parade grew at every stop. Youngsters and older residents, and children on scooters and bicycles formed a growing crowd.

"You kind of join in. As it goes on, it gets bigger," explained Colleen McDonough, one of the first marchers.

The first parade stop was at the grave of Burton Potter, the first soldier from Southold Town who was killed in World War I.

An infantryman, he died in France on May 28, 1918. His brother, Irwin Potter, also in the infantry, was badly wounded in the war. Both men were honored in a parade when Irwin Potter came home, Clyde Mellinger said.

"The Orient drum corps and clarinet band met him [Irwin Potter] at the Greenport railroad station in June 1919, and marched him home," Mellinger said.

When the body of Burton Potter was brought back to the hamlet by train in the summer of 1921, "about 60 cars carried the mourners from Greenport to the Orient cemetery," he said.

- MITCHELL FREEDMAN