"I know Chattanooga is a very patriotic place."
Those are not the words of the creator of the "Nooga Strong" stickers or the handful of folks designing memorials.
They are not the words of your grandfather. Or a recruiting poster.
Armed Forces Parade
The 69th annual Armed Forces Day Parade will highlight the U.S. Coast Guard on Friday, May 4. The parade steps off at 10:30 a.m. from the intersection of M.L. King Boulevard and Market Street, moving north on Market to Aquarium Way. About 100 floats, bands, JROTC, military and veterans groups will be in the lineup.
"It's one of the things that makes me love this town so much," said Mickey McCamish, a retired U.S. Navy captain who is serving as the Armed Forces Day Parade committee chairman.
McCamish should know. He was the recent winner of a state award for outstanding veteran volunteer. And his love for our country — and our town — will never be questioned.
And for the most part, Chattanooga concurs. We are patriotic. We embrace the Memorial Day flag traditions at the National Cemetery. We are hosting, on Friday, the Armed Forces Day Parade for the 69th year in a row, the longest consecutive run of an event of this kind.
The parade, which starts at 10:30 a.m. Friday, will wind through downtown. It will include a special tribute to the Coast Guard — it annually honors a different branch of the military — that will feature a helicopter fly-over.
Be aware of the traffic stalls; if you think about blowing your horn, well, you can blow that out your tailpipe.
In a time when we fight as much about the rights to protest the national anthem as we do celebrating the anthem, opportunities such as Friday's parade should be celebrated.
According to McCamish, we as a town have embraced this event more in recent years than before.
"The support has improved in each year since the attack," McCamish said, referring to the fatal attacks off Amnicola Highway in July 2015. "The turnout and the participation have all grown."
Sure, the recent surge in interest, participation and attendance can be attributed to that awful attack that took the lives of servicemen who were our friends, neighbors and protectors.
Forget stickers and T-shirts. NoogaStrong is standing along the sidewalk and celebrating the folks past, present and future who are willing to put everything they have on the line for the rest of us.
"Tell everybody the more the merrier," McCamish told me Wednesday afternoon. "That's the reason we are happy to serve — to see the gratitude and the support of our fellow Americans.
"This is such a great event and we hope to see everyone out there."
Absolutely, Mickey. Absolutely.
Remember this as everyone is wondering whether to participate in or cheer on Friday's parade: The true enemy of excellence — like the efforts of our armed forces — is indifference.
Thank you, Capt. McCamish and all members of our armed forces.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6343.