PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth’s Memorial Day parade is one of the country’s longest-running, and it was met with much fanfare.

“We come every year to see this parade, we’ve been in Portsmouth our whole lives,” said Sue Hall.

“We love to see all the military that makes our city great,” she said. “The ones that have gone on before us that have fought and made our country great.”

The 139th annual celebration features military groups, march bands, cheerleading and dance squads, sports teams and other community groups.

It’s an important event for Navy veteran James Thomas.

“I’m retired from the Navy, I did 20 years, and I come every year,” Thomas said. “For our country, really, and people that died in the war. When I was coming up out of high school, Vietnam was really kicking.”

Thomas told 10 On Your Side he joined the service to honor his father, who recently passed away at the age of 101.

“My dad, he was in the Navy for 21 years,” he said.

For recently retired veteran Alex Kelly, a visit to the parade is a fun day for his young kids – and an important lesson for them, as well.

“That it means to give back, to show your appreciation to those who gave us the opportunity to have some of the freedom we have today,” he said.

“My daughter is on the cheer squad, so I’m coming out to enjoy their performance, and to show our appreciation to all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.