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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / East Ridge high school JROTC members work to flip the orientation of a giant American Flag so that it will be seen properly before the 72nd annual Armed Forces Day parade in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn on Friday, May 7, 2021.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:27 p.m. on Friday, May 7, 2021, to state that this is the 72nd Armed Forces Day parade, which began in Chattanooga in 1949.

High school bands, military veterans, vintage car groups and an array of supporters for the nation's armed services marched through downtown Chattanooga on Friday in what U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann called "the most patriotic city in America."

The Armed Forces Day parade, a tradition in Chattanooga for 72 years, survived even the pandemic last year to keep its string of annual parades every year since the end of World War II in 1949.

"We could have easily lost this string last year but we kept it alive, and it's here today in what I know is the most patriotic city in America," said Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, before the morning parade began. "It's great to honor those who have served and those who continue to serve our country in all of our branches."

The featured speaker at the Armed Forces Day luncheon on Friday was U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Ashland City, a West Point graduate and former military doctor who served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Army and served three combat tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Chattanooga's 72nd annual Armed Forces Day parade

"These are my brothers and sisters in service and I will never say no to any opportunity to be with and love our veterans and active forces," Green said.

Green is among 91 members of Congress who have served in the U.S. military — the lowest level since before World War II, according to Military Times. But that could be changing. Of the 79 lawmakers elected last November to the 117th Congress who are age 45 or younger, 21, or 27% of the younger members, served in the military. Green said there are already 109 veterans who have signed up to run as Republican candidates for Congress next year.

"It's getting better every year," said Green, who said veterans tend to bring a more strategic, respectful and global view to their jobs.

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