Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Love A Parade!

Up to 20,000 people turned out Saturday for a parade to welcome home the National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team, providing a big-city atmosphere powered by small-town values.

The rains that had been pelting the region ceased and the clouds gave way to bright sunshine for the two-hour Celebrate Freedom Parade 2006 through downtown Knoxville. [snip]

As part of the Dogwood Arts Festival, the parade included awarding two battle streamers to the 278th's colors. Bredesen; Maj. General Gus Hargett Jr., adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard; and Col. Dennis Adams, the 278th's commander, attached two new streamers to the regiment's flag. One streamer denoted the regiment's efforts in the global war on terror, and the other was for the team's work during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I thought it was great," Adams said afterward. "It's the first time since 1918 we've had something of this magnitude."

Adams said downtown Knoxville had not seen a military parade such as Saturday's since Gen. Lawrence Davis Tyson marched his troops through the city after World War I. The last time the 278th was awarded a battle streamer was for World War II, Adams said.

Officials said the 4,000 soldiers of the 278th stationed along the dangerous northeast border of Iraq captured or killed 550 insurgents. The soldiers encountered 288 improvised explosive devices, with 64 percent located before the objects could deliver fatal blows to soldiers or civilians. The soldiers built or repaired schools, government buildings, wells and mosques during their deployment, which ended for most of the 278th in late October.

As 67 parade units filled Gay Street, children squealed with delight at huge helium-filled balloons and adults swelled with pride at the accomplishments of their children or grandchildren in Iraq. [snip]

Gary Lee Reese Sr., of Ashland City, Tenn., lost his 22-year-old son Sgt. Gary L. Reese Jr. on Aug. 13, 2005, to a similar device. Serving in Iraq, Reese said, provided his son a perspective on life he never would have gained otherwise.

"I think the soldiers saw that these people should have the opportunity to have what we have," Reese said.

"He stood up for the right thing, and I'm very proud of that," Reese said. He added he rarely saw a picture of his son in Iraq without children surrounding the soldier.

"Those little kids who got to know Lee knew he wasn't there to teach them how to strap bombs on. He was there to help them have what he has.

Amen, Mr. Reese. I hope we have parades for all our men and women. They've earned it.

278th Regimental Combat Team Receives Parade in Knoxville

H/T: Instapundit

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