Many marched and many more attended, but everyone at Monday's Memorial Day parade and ceremony was thinking about the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.

"I'm personally grateful to every person who ever put on a uniform and served our country," parade Grand Marshal Bruce Allen said during the ceremony on Veterans Green following the parade.

"I just think it's one of the best things about this town," he said, "with an amazing number of participants and I'm proud of every one of them ... Westport is a very special and wonderful town, and you really know about it on this day."

And what a day it was, with sparkling sunshine and thousands of residents making the march and lending support from the sidelines.

"This is why I moved here," said Tina Carnahan of Westport. "I love it. The camaraderie. It's wonderful, the families that get together. The friends that get together."

"This is our fourth year coming," said Shawn Cogdill of Westport, an Army veteran who retired after 22 years in service. "I'm retired military, so it's always a special day."

He and his wife, Erica, said that of all the towns they've visited and lived in, Westport's celebration tops them all. "This parade is unique because of the after-ceremony," Erica said. "Of every place we've been, this is the only one ... It's a good tribute."

"Today we recognize those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam," said First Selectman Jim Marpe. But he also noted that more recent armed conflicts have heroes as well.

He spoke about Westport native Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning combat photographer who has documented many war zones in this century, sometimes at great peril. "Her bravery is a chilling reminder of the bravery of all our armed forces," he said.

"War is a terrible, terrible time," Allen said. "Being shot at is not great fun ... The awful waste of young lives is wretched."

"Please join me in praying that humankind will find a better way than war to solve their disputes," he added.

"People don't understand what our freedom is all about," said Annie Fasanella of Westport, hailing the bravery of the veterans.

"It shows great community spirit, certainly," observed Paul Taft of South Salem, N.Y., "and it's a great moment to remember our veterans."