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Bremerton throws a patriotic party

You didn’t have to look far to see the county’s heightened patriotism in action at Saturday’s Armed Forces Day parade.

When Pearl Harbor survivors passed, the crowd gave them a standing ovation, waving flags all the while. And the M1 Abrams Tank, a new addition to the parade, was one of the most popular displays.

“I liked the tank,” said Shelia Steeter, of Bremerton. “My son’s in the National Guard as a tank commander and I have an attachment to them. I also liked the fly-overs.”

Three thundering military aircraft fly-overs punctuated the event prompting some to cover their ears and others to squeal with delight. The Whidbey-Island based EP-3 Orions won the people’s choice award for the parade.

There were also the usual high school bands and drill teams, muscle cars and go-karts, beauty queens and a who’s who of local and state politics, including U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks D-6th District, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and Mayor Cary Bozeman.

State Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-23rd District, who watched from the bleachers, said he thinks Sept. 11 brought the importance of “first response personnel” such as police and firefighters to the forefront, in addition to the role of the military.

Many of the parade spectators said they attended out of a sense of duty and pride.

“This is the least we can do to honor those who have served and those who are serving. It gives us the opportunity to show our support,” said Emmett Kirkham, who came from Kent with his wife Janet to watch their enlisted son march.

Clouds threatened to rain out the parade, and a few sprinkles did fall, but it was not enough to dampen the crowd’s spirit or prompt an exodus from the event.

Ron Ives, retired military, said his perspective about the military has changed since he left the service and the conflict in Afghanistan began. He understands how hard the enlisted men work.

“I think people realized the military actually serves a purpose — a lot of dedication goes into it,” Ives said.

Twins David and Mikey Heinicke, who have attended the parade for years, said this year’s event seemed longer and better attended than in years past.

Mikey said he particularly enjoyed the M1 Abrams Tank, and the military K-9 unit, which included German shepherds and a tiny beagle.

“Working for the military, it’s all work and no play for those dogs,” Mikey said.

Other impressive displays included a series submitted by various regional Shriners Clubs, the Central Kitsap High School Parent-Teacher Association float decorated in yellow and black with a “swarm of bees” riding on top, and the Bremerton High School Marching Band.

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