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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Members from various local high school marching bands carry an American flag during the 70th annual Armed Forces Day Parade on Friday, May 3, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Looking around our cordial city, it's hard not to believe we're starting to step toward our next normal.

Granted, the residue and pain — physical, emotional and financial — from the pandemic has left a carload of scars on so many.

But the weather, and the improved numbers and even the hopes for summer and talk of tourism — coming and going — are reasons for hope.

And smiles.

The Lookouts returned this week, and the September dates for Moon River were announced. And, maybe most importantly, one of our city's best events is returning to our streets.

The annual Armed Forces Day parade will wind its way through downtown Friday.

Last year's event was moved from its traditional early May home to October because of COVID-19. Understandably, last year's event was scaled back greatly out of precaution, including the cancellation of the annual Armed Forces Day luncheon.

IF YOU GO

Chattanooga’s 72nd Armed Forces Day parade is Friday at 10:30 a.m. Parade participants — in 130 entries — will head north on Market Street from M.L. King Boulevard.

But those sacrifices to host the parade for the 71st consecutive year were understandable. This year, the event is back to "normal" — lunch is scheduled, crowds are expected, marchers will be in formation — and not a moment too soon.

The parade this year will pay tribute to a national hero and Chattanooga favorite son, Charles Coolidge, the Medal of Honor recipient who died earlier this spring.

"I will say a few words about Mr. Coolidge and request a moment of silence as we remember him," said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Mickey McCamish, the military chairman of this year's event.

As much as we need this parade as a step toward normal, it's a chance to pay tribute to a universally supported crew in an ever-divided America.

Of course, the brave folks who put their lives at risk to ensure our freedom merit more than a Friday morning stroll in May. But it's a yearly reminder of their great sacrifice.

With 125 units in the parade this year from all branches of the military and dozens of area businesses and groups, organizers are projecting a record number of participants.

It makes sense, because the military presence is bigger around here than most realize. There are more than 22,000 veterans in Hamilton County and more than 13,500 in Chattanooga proper, according to McCamish.

"It's an honor and very humbling experience for me to serve as the military chairman of the parade that I marched in as a Chattanooga High School ROTC cadet. The parade brings back so many fond memories," McCamish said.

Pride. Honor. Togetherness. Sounds like a celebration to me and a perfect time to honor those fine citizens and proud Americans.

And, if the last 15 months of cancellations, reschedulings and redos have taught us anything, it is this: We shouldn't take anything for granted.

Especially something as traditionally cool as the Armed Forces Day Parade.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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