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Armed Forces Festival goes off without a hitch

Bremerton resident Daniel McClellan sat on the curb on Burwell Street during the 56th Annual Armed Forces Day Parade on May 15 surrounded by his three children, Kyle, Mira and Corrine.

For McClellan, the parade had special significance because he was unable to attend the 2003 parade. As a submariner on the USS Nevada, a Navy Submarine Base Bangor-based boat, he cherishes the teachable moments he can share with his children.

“I think it’s great, especially being active duty myself,” he said of being able to take his children to the parade and explain the importance of the Armed Forces Festival.

Yvonne Dale, a Navy veteran, also attended the parade with her three children and husband in tow. Her favorite part of the parade was the tribute to the local servicemen who died during the war on terror and in Iraq. Friends and family members of the fallen servicemen carried simple white banners with the servicemen’s names written in blue ink.

As the banners passed, the some 20,000 parade attendees stood. Some wiped tears and all were silent.

“I think they did a good job, especially the tribute,” she said.

She emphasized that even though the war in Iraq is a political hot potato right now, it is still important to support the troops.

“We’ve got to support our people,” she said.

There were 160 parade entries, which included past and present service members.

“I am honored to be included,” said Col. Christopher Toomey, commanding officer, 555th Combat Engineer Group, Fort Lewis. “We are very proud of the community for having a parade like this. I think it really is a statement of the whole Puget Sound area and how much they support the military.”

Sgt. John “Bud” Hawk, holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor from World War II, was a light machine gunner in a rifle company of General Patton’s 3rd Army, 90th Infantry. Hawk said Armed Forces Day parades such as the one held in Bremerton show the duty and sacrifice America’s military endures.

“It (the parade) encourages people to celebrate recognition of our service people top to bottom,” he said. “There are a lot of people who did what I did who are not here today. The turnout for the parade was marvelous. The parade was a little more intense perhaps because of what is happening in Iraq.”

Perhaps as a way to underscore Hawk’s statement, many people visibly cried when they witnessed 80 banners being carried during the parade showing the names of individuals from the state of Washington who had been killed in the line of duty since 9/11.

J01 Spenser Webster of the Naval Station Bremerton contributed to this report.

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