As Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." played over the roar of traffic today, those gathered for the Memorial Day ceremony held their joined hands high, some singing along to the patriotic lyrics.
Afterward, the commander of the Allen County Council of Veterans Organizations told the crowd of about 100 that he disagreed with some lyrics.
"It's not only my brothers in arms I'd stand next to but also my sisters in arms," Jim Olds said, reiterating this year's parade and ceremony theme of women in the military.
A day of remembrance, Memorial Day honors more than 1 million people who have died in military service since the Civil War.
The ceremony in Fort Wayne was held at Veteran's Plaza outside Memorial Coliseum after the annual parade. It featured remarks by female veterans.
Alena Gillum, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said she saw many firsts for women during her career, including the first female fighter pilot.
"So I challenge you young ladies out there – what's going to be the first in your lifetime?" she said.
Jenise Harris of the 384th Military Police Battalion said she struggled with writing a speech about what it's like to be a woman in the military.
"My gender has never been a factor in how I serve or how I've been treated when I serve," Harris said.
She credited her parents, who served in the Navy and Marine Corps, with raising her to keep trying no matter what.
"They told me never to give in to a lower standard," she said. "Whether it be people think I can't do something because I'm a woman or they think I can't do something because I'm not that tall. They said that 'always give your best.'"
Maryalice Grant enlisted in the Army in August 1974 and served as a personnel records clerk in Nuremberg, Germany.
"My message is really quite simple: We really just want to live in peace, in harmony," Grant said. "All veterans and current military know the price of freedom.… But if this country were threatened or attacked, I'm pretty sure that the majority of us would not hesitate to try to get back in our uniforms and fight for the greatest country in the world."
She thanked everyone for attending the ceremony despite the blistering heat. Like other speakers, she thanked everyone who has served.
"Every day should be Memorial Day," she said.