Hundreds of people lined Market Street for Chattanooga's 70th Armed Forces Day parade Friday morning.
On the sidewalks and from their downtown apartment balconies, people waved and cheered as the procession made its way toward the Market Street Bridge.
Every branch of the United States military was represented, as well as several Hamilton County high school marching bands and JROTC units. Civic and volunteer organizations and some businesses also participated.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Leo Brown, Jr., a Vietnam veteran, was one of the spectators. He was born and raised in Chattanooga and served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, beginning during the Vietnam War and retiring after Operation Desert Storm.
He said seeing the number of people who came out to support the armed forces was overwhelming.
"It makes me proud," he said, his voice filled with emotion. "Proud to be an American, proud to be a Chattanoogan. It really fills your heart with pride. I appreciate all of this, I really do."
About a block up the road, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Frye and his wife Nancy stood.
The couple just moved to Chattanooga from Atlanta in the last year, and this was their first time attending the parade.
"This is awesome," Nancy Frye said.
"I'm impressed by the number of Junior ROTC cadets," Jeffrey Frye said.
After the parade, a luncheon was held at which local and state officials spoke, along with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, and U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.
"Being your representative on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Veterans Committee, my hope is that my service does honor to the service and sacrifice that you all have given," Blackburn said. "We appreciate it more than you could possibly know."
Fleischmann recalled watching the parade as a young lawyer in Chattanooga.
"Year after year, sometimes I would lift up my window and watch it from my window downtown," he said. "It was something special to see."
U.S. Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett was the luncheon's keynote speaker and commended the city's supportive turnout for the parade.
"It really energizes and motivates and reinforces what we all understand: that the American people support, appreciate and trust the military," Garrett said.
"Your support makes our armed forces the most powerful in the world," he said. "Not only the most powerful, but the most respected."
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