The streets of downtown Union were lined with people waving miniature American flags Monday.

A large crowd gathered for the annual Union American Legion Post 297 Memorial Day parade and ceremony.

The parade, which kicked off just after 10 a.m., snaked through downtown Union before ending up at the Post 297 headquarters. The 2019 version of the parade featured floats from area clubs, civic groups, churches, businesses and more.

Parade floats were decked out in United States flag regalia and candy and treats were tossed to the crowd.

Following the parade, the event switched over to the annual ceremony at the Post 297 headquarters.

The Union High School Red and Black Brigade kicked things off with the playing of the national anthem. Following the band’s rendition, the ceremony opened with a prayer before remarks from Union American Legion Post 297 Commander Bob Tannehill.

Tannehill spoke about the significance of Memorial Day, but also about the American Legion. He pointed out to the gathered crowd that the organization was nearing its 100th birthday.

Tannehill told the story of how the American Legion came to be and said how it was officially started in late 1919.

Following his remarks, Tannehill turned the ceremony over to guest speaker, United States Navy veteran Francis Kirner.

Kirner, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., is a University of Notre Dame graduate. While at Notre Dame studying chemical engineering, he began military training as part of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Unit.

After receiving his engineering degree in 1965, Kirner was commissioned as an ensign in the U. S. Navy and ordered to report to the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School in California.

He was transferred to the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN 599) Gold home ported in New London, Conn., and operating out of the Navy Support Activity Base in Scotland. He served as an engineering officer.

From there he made deterrent patrols until he left active duty and entered the Reserves in 1969.

He is a member of the American Legion and the United States Submarine Veterans USS Springfield Base. With the submarine veterans, he served as the treasurer and vice commander.

During his speech, Kirner reminded the crowd about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a recognition of those who died while serving, he said.

“There’s a hard distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” he said. “Memorial Day is to honor a service member who gave their life in our nation’s wars. Veterans Day honors anyone who has served honorably in the military.”

Kirner shared a history of the United States’ involvement in combat starting with the Revolutionary War. He provided details of the wars and mentioned the number of casualties involved in each conflict.

He closed his speech with a call for unity.

“The bedrock of our union was an unconditional tolerance to live together in harmony,” Kirner said. “Differences are good. They are the glue that makes us strong.”

Kirner’s speech was followed by remarks from American Legion Post 297 Auxiliary Commander Gail Mefford and Sons of the American Legion Commander Jim LaVenture. LaVenture lamented the size of the crowd at the ceremony and encouraged more people to come to future Memorial Day events.

The ceremony came to a close with a rifle salute and the playing of taps.