Amid the happy reunions, there were tears over lessons learned, losses never to be redeemed.
During patriotic songs, the veterans stood saluting with quivering hands, and tears on their cheeks. The section with the orphans waved hundreds of gold stars -- the 60-year-old symbol of a family member killed in the war. Others waved thousands of American flags.
Klein cried for her first husband, who never saw his baby.
Dan Iannelli, from Swarthmore, Pa., cried remembering the blood and body parts he saw inside tanks hit by German shells at the Battle of the Bulge. His job was to haul away bombed-out tanks and bring in new ones.
Iannelli's father fought in World War I. His son fought in Vietnam. An unspoken knowledge and understanding -- lessons of fear, deprivation, sacrifice -- passed from one generation of warrior to the next.
"My dad was gassed in World War I," he said. "Doctors had to cut off the end of his tongue because it was starting to decay. When I came home from World War II, I said, 'Dad, now I understand.' My son served in the Mekong Delta on one of the river boats. When he came home, he said to me, 'Dad, now I understand.' "
Iannelli caught sight of some young Prince William County sheriff's deputies providing security: another generation in uniform.
"Thank you for keeping us safe," said the veteran.
"We say thank you to you," said one of the deputies.
"We had a job to do and we did the job," said Iannelli. "When I look at you guys, I say it was well worth it."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Jean Klein, 78, a war widow who lives north of Denver, dances with Byron Logan, 77, from Hickory, N.C. Logan, who served in the World War II Navy on the USS Murrelet, is a World War I enthusiast who is wearing an authentic uniform from that war. Many strangers of the WWII generation greeted one another like family.
(Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)