Veterans touched by support shown at parades, services
JASON BRIDGE | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
American Legion Post 347 Adjutant Pat Fraino salutes the veterans memorial in Roosevelt Park in Arnold on Thursday.
KEITH HODAN | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Keimir Bratcher, 6, of Monroeville waves the flag as the Veterans Day parade passes through Downtown.
SEAN STIPP | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
World War II veteran John Darr, along with other members of the Ligonier Valley Honor Guard, fires a rifle salute during a Veterans Day program on Thursday.
Thursday was the last time Lt. Col. Johnathan Wilson will march in a Veterans Day parade before retiring from the Army next year.
“It’s very exciting to represent the military here,” said Wilson, 51, of McDonald, who has 32 years of service. “I would like people to know that we appreciate their support.”
Wilson’s father served in Korea, and his 22-year-old son just returned from a second tour in Afghanistan. He was among hundreds of active-duty and retired military who participated in a sun-draped parade Downtown featuring displays of military equipment and high school marching bands.
About 100 members of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Moon, where Wilson works, represented the 91st annual parade’s largest contingent. Brig. Gen. Peter S. Lennon, leader of the command, served as grand marshal.
“This is really is an amazing honor,” said Lennon, 56, of Newport News, Va., who has been in the Army for 34 years. “It is an opportunity for the public to recognize all of the country’s soldiers and servicemen. I hope the parade goes beyond the current events. There are heroes from every generation.”
Lennon oversees soldiers who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as many as five times. He said he knew he would think of many of them and their sacrifice while marching.
The parade’s onlookers and participants — police estimated a crowd of about 10,000 people — were a mix of old and young.
“They are mainly interested in seeing if they can get candy,” teacher Desiree Bentley said as she supervised 17 kindergarten and first-grade students from Brightside Academy, Downtown.
For veterans like Mike Murphy, 61, of Lawrenceville, the parade is a once-a-year opportunity to see veterans of all ages on the same day.
“There are marchers from as far back as World War II — some of them 90 years old — and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is very important for veterans to meet and understand what they went through,” said Murphy, a parade organizer, retired Pittsburgh firefighter and veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during Vietnam.
Six city police officers on motorcycles led the parade. All are veterans of the first Gulf War, which began 20 years ago.
“You see the importance of military service to the people in the crowd,” said Lt. Joseph Tersak, who was among the contingent. “Out of all the parades we lead, it’s the largest number of flags that we see among the people who are lining the streets to watch.”