JEFFERSONVILLE — It was more than 60 years ago that Brent Morris enlisted into the U.S. Army, serving two years in Germany. But being a veteran and a patriot is something he carries with him — that's why it was important for him to celebrate the day with a parade and veterans' service in Jeffersonville.

"It's rather stilling, emotionally," he said. "I tend to cry, mostly at the music."

Morris was one of dozens in Jeffersonville's Warder Park for the Celebrating Freedom ceremony, following this year's Independence Day parade. Attendees sang the "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America," and veterans from all branches of the military were asked to stand and be recognized.

The Jeffersonville Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors, and Boy Scouts from Wall Street United Methodist Church performed a flag retiring ceremony.

"I think every day we get bombarded with what's wrong with the United States and I think this is one thing that's right," Cathie Wheat, publicity chair for the event, said. "This is celebrating where we came from, celebrating our history, our heritage."

Wheat said she was thrilled to have more than 20 veterans participating in this year's parade and ceremony — a record topping years past.

"I would just love to have 50 veterans or more," she said. "That's what it's all about."

She credits Charlestown resident Larry Hayden with working hard to seek out veterans; the group also expanded the call by using their Facebook page. Wheat said she even tracked down one participant by seeing the sticker on his car and knocking on the window.

Speakers at the event included Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, Indiana Rep. Rita Fleming and Sen. Ron Grooms, who spoke of the Declaration of Independence, a symbol of some of the first who fought for the freedom of the U.S.

"The Declaration, when you read it, think about what it really means," Grooms said. "When you stand and pledge allegiance to the flag, remember it started long before just the writing of the brilliant people that wrote that Declaration. It was much more than just a piece of paper."

Those celebrating Thursday also had a shared patriotism — one that has united them all these years.

"It means honoring your country and your neighbors," Morris said, of what patriotism means to him. "Being respectful of the flag, and [helping] anyone you can."

To Jim Lynch, Spec 4 National Guardsman who served from 1957 to 1963, then on reserve until 1965, patriotism is a word that means the world to him.

"It means everything to me," he said, adding that some attitudes may have shifted over time.

"[Patriotism] is still strong, but I'm sure there's some people who don't realize what they have and appreciate it."

Dave Kannapell is one of those who do. Though he wasn't in the service himself, it's woven throughout the fabric of his family. His father joined the U.S. Navy just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As an engineer, he was soon sent to build a submarine base which is still in use today.

"Patriotism means appreciating the fact that you live in the country that has the rights and the freedoms that we have," Kannapell said. "It's a great nation, continues to be a great nation, and I'm proud to be an American."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.