Salute Our Troops parade marches through Rlaeigh

April 26, 2008 1:29:38 PM PDT
Hundreds of people showed their appreciation for U.S. soldiers on Saturday at a parade featuring bands, a flyover and a combination of weaponry and the people who operate it.

Martial music fired up the crows as the parade rolled through the Capital City.

"You can't help but get emotional, seeing everybody just here, in front of you" troop supporter Janice Fletcher said.

The sight of the F-15E Strike Eagle flying over thrilled Fletcher.

The 1.5-mile parade route through downtown Raleigh displayed marching infantry and military bands and armored personnel carriers topped by machine gun turrets. The flyover featured a quartet of F15-E Strike Eagle jets from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"I've got a good friend who lost a nephew in Iraq," she said. "And our son is in Broughton ROTC and the Broughton marching band."

Retired Naval chaplain Ted Edwards said, "It brings back a lot of memories, but it also gives me a sense of pride to see our troops today. I was in Vietnam."

Not everyone cheered the troops.

A few people along the route carried signs and banners bearing messages such as "Don't Celebrate War." One man was taken away by police in handcuffs after he lay down in front of an armored vehicle and blocked its path, onlookers said.

Ralph Blevins, 67, of Garner, who sat in front of the Wake County courthouse waiting for the parade, said he was dismayed at the stateside reception he and fellow soldiers received when they returned from the Vietnam war.

"I thought then, if there ever was another conflict, I would show my support for the troops," Blevins said.

"War should be mourned, not celebrated," Patrick O'Neill, one of the organizers of the anti-parade group, said in an interview Friday. "When our nation is at war on two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan, and soldiers are dying, it seems inappropriate to be celebrating war."

The protesters were a tiny minority, however, unseen by much of the crowd.

"We were told there were protesters here," said onlooker Loran Hardy, 24, who lives in Greenville, S.C., "and I'm thinking, are you insane? Because they are in the most free country in the world, where people can do pretty much what they like, and they are protesting against our military?"

Army Veteran Robert Kells is looking ahead to the May primary.

"Wish Obama was here to speak to us, and just let us know--this is what our country is about," Kells said.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that the day was conceived in a meeting at Fort Bragg where representatives of the State Bankers Association inquired about helping families who had lost a soldier in combat.


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