Dan Krall had dropped off his daughter with the other Girl Scouts, and his paternal duty was officially over. But something about the morning -- maybe the sun glancing off the brick facades, the pleasant clatter of horse-clop and motor-rumble or the collective anticipation of 8,000 gathered people -- held him.
He walked down the sidewalk of Washington Avenue in Leonardtown with a cell phone to his ear.
"Why aren't you at the parade?" he said into the phone, sharing his discovery. "The Veterans Day Parade!"
Veterans Day in Leonardtown is a reliable holiday.
Each year, on the 11th day of the 11th month, the usually quiet main street fills with high school marching bands and classic cars, with little girls from Brownie troops and men from the Lions Club.
Each year, people line up for stuffed ham sandwiches and hot cider; politicians discuss freedom and sacrifice from a raised stage; and children scramble for tossed candy. But for some Friday, at the 30th annual Leonardtown Veterans Day Parade, honoring tradition was most significant.
"We don't have much left that gives us a sense of commitment and community," said Jack Russell, a former waterman from St. George Island. "So this is important."
For others, it was all new. Olena Gardner, 62, of Mechanicsville has a husband who served in Vietnam, a father who was a Marine, a stepson who just returned from Iraq, a son-in-law who is retired from the Navy, a career of her own with the Department of Defense and two decades of living in St. Mary's County -- but she had never been to the Leonardtown Veterans Day Parade. This year, though, she felt compelled to be there.
"It was the whole tone of the country. I don't think there is enough support for our veterans," Gardner said. She says the war in Iraq is just and necessary, and the results are worth the costs. "The fact that nothing has happened [in the United States], no attacks, means we're doing something right."
To state Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's), the results of veterans' service and sacrifices were on display Friday morning in the town square. Dyson was just one of several politicians to speak, including Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and St. Mary's County commissioners President Thomas F. McKay (R-At Large).
"I think it's one of the biggest turnouts in the state," Dyson told the audience. "And you know what it is. And I think one of the reasons why it is, is because you feel safe here in Leonardtown. This is what America is about. This is what you fought so hard for."
Two soldiers being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District came to listen to the ceremony. Sgt. Harry Weaver, 49, a member of an Army National Guard unit from Florida, and Army Spec. Duval Diaz, 45, of Philadelphia reenlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and were injured in Afghanistan.
"Being that it is small-town America, they really do it up," Weaver said of the ceremony. "It really inspires you to go on."
For some, the pleasure was found in being outside on a bright, brisk morning. Krall, a retired Marine colonel who works for a defense contractor, said he had lived in the county for a decade but never watched the parade.
"I looked around, and I thought, 'Hey, this is pretty nice,' " he said. "I decided to find a place in the sun and chill out."