Waving the flag

Waving the flag

May 7th, 2011 by Todd South in News

For an hour Friday, a section of Market Street shut down as throngs of children and onlookers cheered a parade of troops and local groups honoring the armed forces.

Ooltewah High School Army JROTC Cadet Maj. Joshua Simpkins marched his battalion for the first time in the parade, hoping his voice wouldn't give out.

"To show off the JROTC program and represent the Army is a great thing," Simpkins said moments before his group stepped off.

Sitting on a patch of grass, Victoria Moore showed her 4-year-old daughter, Rama Sherrod, and her daughter's friends, Kellis and Kilin Moore, their first parade.

Moore remembered marching as a flag girl in Howard High School's band in the early 1980s.

Back then, she said, school officials let most of the high schoolers out of school for a half day to watch the parade, and attendance was much larger.

But participation by local and not-so-local military groups hasn't waned, one marching man said.

U.S. Army Maj. Paul Dean instructs the Ooltewah JROTC. He marched in the parade when he was in the Baylor School JROTC, and as an ROTC cadet at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Over a few decades, he said, the crowd has thinned, but the number of units and groups marching has remained about the same.

"It's an opportunity for the public to get out and show their support for veterans," he said. "A chance to rally around the troops."

Tennessee Air Guard Maj. Marty Malone announced the groups marching past the reviewing stand.

He's worked with the parade for at least five years and said it's one of the longest-running parades of its size for a city as large as Chattanooga.

Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen marched down the street to the applause of the crowd.

But squeals from grade-school age children scooping up candy tossed from floats elicited the loudest response.

The Marine Corps Band - New Orleans marched behind the color guard at the front end of the parade, opening the ceremony. Multiple local JROTC, high school bands and veterans groups followed.

Malone said an estimated 50 groups participated in the hourlong parade.