Chattanooga parade showcases local military groups (with slideshow)

Chattanooga parade showcases local military groups (with slideshow)

May 4th, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

They came, they marched, they saluted and they left.

In about an hour Friday, nearly 100 groups of veterans, local JROTC, companies and civic organizations filed by the reviewing stand on Market Street for the 64th annual Armed Forces Day Parade.

And U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Robert Helton saluted every one as it passed.

"This is a wonderful opportunity," Helton said after the parade. "I've never felt more welcome in my military career."

Chattanooga has put on a parade every year since Armed Forces Day was established in 1949, said U.S. Army Air National Guard Maj. Marty Malone. It is one of the oldest continual parades of its kind for a city the size of Chattanooga.

Reviewing officers salute the United States flag as it is carried past the reviewing stand.

Photo by Connor Choate/Times Free Press.

Streets shut down for nearly three hours before the 10:30 a.m. start time as groups staged along the route, which officially began at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Market Street.

About an hour before the marching began, Anita Verkest stood near that intersection to wait to see her daughter Mellissa Verkest go by with the Central High School JROTC.

"They don't prepare the kids for military so much as prepare them for life," Anita Verkest said.

Central High School has one of the oldest JROTC programs in the nation. It was established in 1919, Malone said.

A little farther along, Patrick Abercrombie helped a detachment of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets prepare for their role in the parade.

"For these guys, it's a pride thing," Abercrombie said. "We teach them that it's an honor to be asked to carry our colors."