"It's a very important day, not only for the Veteran of Foreign Wars but every veteran organization, every branch of the service, and every patriot in general - every American. This day is hugely significant and should never be forgotten," said David Olson, 66, of Portland, the VFW's state senior vice commander.
He said he was pleased to see a large turnout of youngsters, both in the parade and along the parade route. "As they get older, they'll realize exactly why we do this," he said.
For some veterans, it was a somber event.
Richard Traiser, a Marine injured when his tank came under attack in Vietnam, helped deliver a three-volley salute with the Marine Corps League.
Memorial Day gives those who served an opportunity to get together and remember friends who didn't make it.
"I think about them a lot, especially the people I lost in my platoon," Traiser said. "A couple of kids were 19 years old. I don't dwell on it in a morbid way, but it's on your mind."
In Connecticut, a Waterford man who was killed in the Vietnam War was honored with a hometown park area named for him. Arnold E. Holm Jr., nicknamed "Dusty," was killed when his helicopter was shot down on June 11, 1972. A group of at least 100 dedicated the park this weekend.
In suburban Boston, veterans gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers. The city of Beverly called off its parade because so few veterans would be able to march. The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War.
In Atlanta, a dedication of the History Center's redone Veterans Park was scheduled for early evening. Soil from major battlefields will be scattered by veterans around the park's flagpole.
The holiday weekend also marked the traditional start of the U.S. vacation season. AAA, one of the nation's largest leisure travel agencies, expected 31.2 million Americans to hit the road over the weekend, virtually the same number as last year. Gas prices were about the same as last year, up 1 cent to a national average of $3.65 a gallon Friday.
At the American Airpower Museum on Long Island, N.Y., a program honored Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPs, who tested and ferried completed aircraft from factories to bases during World War II. Thirty-eight died during the war, including Alice Lovejoy of Scarsdale, N.Y., who was killed on Sept. 13, 1944, in a midair collision over Texas.
"It's very important that we recognize not only their contribution to American history, but women's history," said Julia Lauria-Blum, curator of the WASP exhibit at the museum. "These women really blazed a path; they were pioneers for women's aviation. And most important, they gave their lives serving their country and must be honored like anyone else on Memorial Day."