KUALA LUMPUR - Back when Mohd Salleh Zakaria was in school, he was one of those National Day parade participants who would excitedly wave the mini Jalur Gemilang.
The 42-year-old father of three took a trip down memory lane yesterday by taking his family to Dataran Merdeka to feel the spirit of Merdeka firsthand.
"For two years, I participated in the National Day parade back in the 1980s. My kids have been bugging me to bring them here.
"This year, my son is back from boarding school so we decided to make a family trip here," said Mohd Salleh, who is from Shah Alam.
He said that watching the parade from home and witnessing it "live" on the field were two completely different experiences.
Mohd Salleh added that his three children were sent to Chinese primary schools as he wanted them to experience Malaysia and learn to mingle.
Also present to show their patriotism at the parade were brothers Yusof and Asyraf Rahim, aged 11 and 12, respectively. They came dressed in army regalia - complete with toy machine guns and grenades.
"We have been wearing these for the last five years. We want to be soldiers," said Asyraf.
The outfits were formerly worn by their father when he was a child.
The siblings shook hands with the army contingent, whom they looked upon admiringly.
There were also two sisters who came clad in uniquely designed Jalur Gemilang dresses.
Their mother Hasniza Husin, a seamstress, designed and stitched the outfits.
"I've been sewing Merdeka costumes since my eldest daughter was eight months old.
"I bring my daughters here to let them feel the spirit of Merdeka as I explain the meaning of being an independent nation," said the 32-year-old.
Student Ram Aliza Ramli, 16, came to Dataran Merdeka accompanied by her sister, Ram Kamilia, 18, mainly to watch the march-past by the armed forces contingent.
"We wanted to show our support to the men and women who serve in the country's armed forces by being here," said Aliza.
Among the very young, Sanjinathan is only seven years old but has already been to five Merdeka parades.
His father Selvanathan Tharitheran, 57, said that it was a family tradition to watch the annual Merdeka parade.
"I do it because I am a Malaysian and this is my country," he added.