JACKSON — Mayor Michael Reina knew his town was onto a good idea several years ago when a Vietnam veteran grateful to be recognized during a parade asked him, "Where were you when I came home?"

It is the ongoing effort to ensure veterans like that know their sacrifices are appreciated that has carried Jackson's annual Wounded Warrior Parade all the way to its 10th year, coming up on Saturday, Oct. 7. The procession provides a day, Reina said, that the veterans never forget.

"These guys are honored people of society," he said. "Wounded Warriors — you can't get any more heroic than that."

Reina said in years past, the event has brought out veterans as well as spectators hailing not only from Jackson, but other nearby towns also. Soldiers who saw action in every major American conflict dating back to World War II have participated. Veterans' groups line the streets, as do young supporters like Little Leagues and Boy Scout troops, while the police-escorted caravan heads to a special reception at the Central Jersey Rifle and Pistol Club, also in Jackson.

There, even more people are waiting to celebrate these heroes, and businesses from Jackson, Plumsted, and Howell chip in with bagels, sandwiches, coffee and cake.

To Reina, continuing this yearly tradition is the least his town can do.

"No matter what we do, 'thank you' just feels so inadequate," he said. "You're meeting people who are (part of) history, it's living history."

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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