Tony Pellegrino stood solemnly in the hot sun as the East Northport Memorial Day parade marched by.
Pellegrino, 85, was in town from Annapolis, Md. to visit his daughter and watch his grandson, a Boy Scout, march in the parade.
“And I’m remembering all the World War II vets,” said Pellegrino, a WWII veteran himself, shying away from receiving any thanks.
He was one of hundreds who watched the parade, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, move down Larkfield Road on Monday and gather at John Walsh Memorial Park to honor the service men and women who have given their lives for Americans’ freedom.
The tone of the memorial service was set by Northport resident Briana Rickman, who won a high schools essay contest and read her piece to the crowd.
Asked what Memorial Day meant to her, Rickman acknowledged that it had typically been a Monday off from school and a long weekend to enjoy the sun and good company. Rickman,18, said her views changed after volunteering to spending time with veterans at Northport Hospital. There, she begun to realize the pain and sacrifice they’ve experienced.
“I never really knew what living free really means, what price was paid, what sacrifices made,” she read from her essay. “Do you?”
Rickman’s speech was followed by a prayer service, the firing of honors from the Veterans of Foreign Wars rifle squad and a wreath-laying ceremony.
Members of the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops joined service members from the Northport area in laying wreaths on the park’s war memorials.
Rickman said she would never again fail to recognize the importance of Memorial Day.
“Now if you ask me what Memorial Day is for,” she said, “I’ll say, ‘Honoring the extraordinary men and women who gave their lives so I can have a future.' ”