New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe cadets carry an American flag to lead the way during the Veterans Day Parade, Saturday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)
City shows appreciation, reverence at Veterans Parade
Saturday morning was greeted with a thin layer of fog over Roswell. It sat, almost as if it were waiting for something — almost as if it knew the day was one of somber reverence mixed with celebrated appreciation.
For a little more than a decade, the Veterans Parade Committee has come together as a group of volunteers to create a parade in honor of past and present veterans. And as the sun cleared away the fog, a warm morning greeted all the red, white and blue of this year’s parade.
Main Street was crowded: floats, cars, military personnel, marching bands and people lining the sidewalks. From young children to older veterans, everyone who attended knew the importance of honoring those who have served, especially those who have fallen.
“I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” played over loud speakers, followed by a variety of patriotic songs sung live by Tom Blake Trio. Meanwhile, Veterans Parade Committee volunteer Sara Hall directed all the groups walking or riding in the parade.
“It’s all about honoring our veterans,” she said, taking a moment to catch her breath. “No matter which war they served in, they’re still our veterans … they served to give us the freedoms we have.”
With 42 parade entries — some, like 10-bike-strong American Legion Riders, had multiple vehicles — it was impossible to even guess how many people were involved.
Some of the cars and floats had veterans, such as the baby blue 1965 Mustang driven by Lowell Hughes. The 94-year-old is a WWII veteran, and has been riding in the parade nearly every year.
“I like to see them observing Veterans Day, which means a whole lot to me,” Hughes stated. His only wish was that more residents would show up to watch. He was, however, pleased to see some younger kids get involved through their schools.
“They need to be involved,” he said of the school-aged children. “They need to know what we did.”
In agreement with Hughes was Ms. Rhodes, a sixth- through eighth-grade reading teacher at Berrendo Middle School. She saw the parade as more than just an honor to veterans: it was educational.
“As a teacher, from an educational aspect, it’s a part of history, and the foundation for what we have now,” she said, referring to what veterans have done and continue to do.
“If you don’t study history and the injustices mankind has to overcome, you’ll become a victim of it.”
Coming from a military family, Rhodes watched the parade from the sidelines, fighting back tears when certain songs were played or floats went by.
“I can’t do this without a tissue,” she said. But she was there to see and support the veterans, as well as her students.
Along with Berrendo, many other schools participated. Sierra Middle School, Mountain View Middle School and Mesa Middle School all had bands marching in the procession.
Roswell High School and Goddard High School also participated with marching bands.
“This is all about the veterans,” said RHS drum major and senior, Kyler Burd. “It’s an honor to do something that shows our appreciation.”
Being his fourth time in the parade, he knew what to expect. But he said it’s touching to see all the veterans stand and clap when they hear the song of their military branch.
GHS drum major and senior Corey Stevens agreed with Burd, saying that marching in the parade was really an honor.
“My favorite part is the beginning,” he said, referring to their start in front of the Courthouse. “The community comes together, and the city gets together to honor the veterans.”
The parade had a somber start, with New Mexico Youth Challenge cadets marching by with a giant American flag. And from that moment until the end, when 100 motorcycles revved by, each displaying a billowing American flag of their own, every man, woman and child understood, for at least a moment, how important it is to honor the veterans and their sacrifices.
As it stated clearly on the side of the RHS agriculture and social studies departments’ float: “To our fallen heroes — we have not forgotten.”
Veterans Day events will continue today with a 3 p.m. program at First United Methodist Church, 200 N. Pennsylvania Ave., to honor veterans. Then on Monday, there will be veterans assemblies at University High at 1 p.m. and Goddard High School at 1:30 p.m.