Spectators waved and cheered as a procession of veterans, family members and supporters passed by during Tamaqua's Veterans Day Parade Saturday.

Some waved flags. Some dressed in red, white and blue. Their message was clear: "Thank you veterans."

This year's parade, organized by the Tamaqua American Legion, was limited to marchers due to the extended parade route.

"The parade serves as a way for area residents to say thank you to all our heroes," said Larry Kabana, post commander of the Tamaqua American Legion.

He added that nothing will ever prevent the post from honoring fellow veterans.

"If it wasn't for our veterans, we wouldn't be a free country," said parade participant Shawn Phillips of Tamaqua. "I thank all the men and women for the sacrifices they made and continue to do."

Phillip's father and uncle were veterans.

"As a veteran, it is truly welcoming that we are honored and remembered even after our service time has been completed," said Nancy Stevens, junior vice commander of the Coaldale American Legion. "I like that the American Legion strives to keep the tradition of honoring our veterans alive."

Chaplain David Kessler of the Coaldale American Legion, added, "It is important to help and remember loved ones who have lost a service member."

"Thank you to all veterans for sacrificing their own lives for us, just so we can have a beautiful free life here in America," said Janet Batchelder of Lansford. "God bless all past and present veterans. Bring them all home."

Following the parade, a service was held outside the Tamaqua American Legion.

Edward Smith, 13th District Commander, American Legion, who was the key speaker, spoke about the suicide rate for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve forces.

"Simply put, we are losing more service members by their own hands than by the enemy in Afghanistan," said Smith. "Only those who experience firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why most of these young men and women feel compelled to take such drastic and permanent measures."

Also speaking were Schuylkill County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. and Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison. Halcovage, a Navy veteran, speaking on behalf of himself and fellow Commissioners Frank J. Staudenmeier and Gary J. Hess, talked about the importance of keeping patriotism alive. Morrison, who served as part of the parade's honor guard, praised the Tamaqua American Legion and Tamaqua residents for their continued support of area veterans.

"Veterans Day is a time to honor not just those who have fought for us in battle, but, in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who served in our nation's Armed Forces since our founding more than 237 years ago," said Smith.

"We are their friends, their family, their co-workers and their neighbors. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans," said Smith. "There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say thank you for what you have done for our country.

"Let us always treat our 22 million veterans as the saviors of our country that they are," Smith added.

"We appreciate them. We are grateful for their service."