IF YOU GO
* What: Armed Forces Day Parade
* When: Today at 10:30 a.m. The estimated length is 45 minutes.
* Where: Market Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard
* Cost: Free
ABOUT ARMED FORCES DAY
• Armed Forces Day was set aside as a combined holiday to honor active duty military branches on Aug. 31, 1949. The first such holiday was held on May 20, 1950.
Today's 65th annual Armed Forces Day Parade in downtown Chattanooga may be the longest-running such parade of its size in the nation, organizers say.
Starting in 1950, the first year of the holiday, the Scenic City has held this parade every year, parade committee member Maj. Marty Malone said.
Malone participated in the parade first as a high school band member, then as a JROTC cadet for Central High School between 1987 and 1990. He said participation has remained consistent.
A decade ago the Tennessee Air National Guard officer began working with the organizing group the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council to conduct the parade.
He's impressed with the long-running status of the parade.
"I think it shows that we have, particularly with the veterans who like to stay involved, that they have such pride in the military they served in and they keep that continuity," Malone said.
The Armed Forces Day holiday replaced individual holidays for each military branch. The leagues for the Army, Navy and Air Force adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps league honored the holiday but did not drop support for Marine Corps Day, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The official Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. The local parade is held earlier and on a weekday to accommodate school schedules, Malone said.
The long-standing continuity here reaches even those who haven't served in the military or haven't had the opportunity.
Nearly 1,000 local JROTC cadets from 10 Hamilton County programs and two Georgia schools will be marching in today's parade, retired U.S. Army Col. Tom McConnell said.
McConnell heads Hamilton County JROTC for the public schools.
Not only will the cadets be strutting their stuff for family, friends and community, they'll be watched closely for possible recognition.
Graders will evaluate and mark each group's performance. The top three finishers will be awarded a plaque by the Hamilton County Board of Education, McConnell said.
"I'm pretty sure it's a highlight of the year, especially for the senior cadets," McConnell said.
The estimated 45-minute parade will be followed by a luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Maj. Gen. Leslie J. Carroll, the chief of staff for the U.S. Army Forces Command, will be the speaker. He is this year's reviewing officer.
Contact staff writer Todd South at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...