TACOMA — For the first time since the 1950s, Tacoma is showing its appreciation to members of the military with a grand parade.
Bands, marchers and floats celebrated service members, both active and veteran, during the parade on Saturday night, The News Tribune reported in Sunday’s newspaper.
Tacoma joined Spokane, which celebrates the military in its Lilac Parade, Auburn, which hosts a Veterans Day Parade, and Bremerton, which shows its appreciation on Armed Forces Day.
At least 3,000 people, many of them children, lined lower Pacific Avenue as the parade began.
The grand marshal was Joe Madison Jackson, a 90-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. He rode in a 1957 Ford convertible.
“I am excited about bringing this parade back to Tacoma after 50 years,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland before the parade began. “We warmly embrace and welcome our military community. We want them here. They’re part of our community. It’s an important reminder of the men and women and the families of JBLM — that they are an important part of our community.”
No queens or princesses rode the floats. Instead, active-duty and veteran service members were the ones waving and smiling.
A soldier driving an M1126 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle from the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment threw candy to children on the sidewalk.
Members of the crowd applauded, some saluted, and some looked to wipe away tears as the Gold Star Mothers marched by carrying banners affixed with the images of fallen soldiers.
There were no clowns or pirates.
Many of the participants wore uniforms, both current camouflage and the clothes of wars gone by.
“This is just one evident example of the great support the region gives to the military,” said Col. Anthony Davit, newly installed as deputy joint base commander at JBLM and commander of the 627th Air Base Group.
“I think this is a beautiful relationship,” he said.
Pierce County counts the largest contingent of active-duty, Reserve, National Guard and veteran troops west of the Mississippi, said Stan Flemming, member of the Pierce County Council and a retired brigadier general.
“Yet, for 58 years, we’ve never recognized that,” he said. “I’m counting on this being the first of many parades and recognitions of the men and women who have served and who are serving.”
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com