Sunny skies and perfect weather made for a crowd friendly 72nd annual Armed Forces Parade down Market Street Friday morning – although it was briefer and with fewer marching bands than in years past.
And a bright future was predicted as well for America’s security by the Armed Forces celebration luncheon speaker, Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee, despite the admitted challenges of China, North Korea and Iran.
“Your armed forces are ready for the challenge,” he said at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
The 45-minute parade began shortly after 10:30 a.m.
and was led by such military units as the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps and local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 203, who rode on a bus with music playing.
A number of Jr. ROTC units from such high schools as East Ridge, Sale Creek, Howard, Soddy Daisy, Ooltewah, Red Bank, Central, Brainerd, Hixson and Ridgeland also marched down the street in cadence.
While the marching bands were fewer than in years past, the Sequatchie County High Band entertained with such numbers as “America,” “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And just behind them was the roughly six-member Chattanooga Pipe Band dressed partly in kilts.
And some of the ROTC units had drummers who kept rhythm for their groups and the dozens of onlookers lining the sidewalks on both sides.
A car lover had plenty to enjoy as well, as two groups of Corvette club members and one Camaro club slowly drove their freshly washed cars down Market Street. An old Jeep, a Red Cross reproduction wagon and some old Corvairs and other cars carrying celebration dignitaries also took part.
A Daughters of the American Revolution member dressed as Lady Liberty was another unusual entry.
Among those taking it all in was former Army aviator Dewey Howard, whose wife, Diane, was participating as a member of the local Women Veterans Across America group. Although he said before the start that the parade was not as big as when he first started watching it nearly 20 years ago, he was still looking forward to it.
“I appreciate the city putting it on,” he said.
At noon, about 45 minutes after the parade ended, roughly 300 people packed a hall at the Chattanooga Convention Center to dine on chicken, green beans, a fruit cup, a barley-like side dish and chocolate cake or cheesecake and heard remarks by several speakers.
Third District Congresssman Chuck Fleischmann said he used to enjoy watching the parade from his Maclellan Building law office before becoming a Congressman, and that he was touched at how organizers held an abbreviated parade last fall to keep the tradition alive amid the pandemic.
“I think America could use a real strong dose of Chattanooga, Tennessee,” the Republican U.S House member said with pride in his opening remarks in salute of the event.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger pointed out that Hamilton County has over 30,000 veterans, and that many are served by the veterans’ services office opened in the county in recent years and headed by Chuck Alsobrook.
He also said he appreciates the contributions made by the local military members.
“There is not a day that goes by that any of us take that for granted,” he said.
New Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, in detailed and thoughtfully written out prepared remarks he read, mentioned the positive lessons of service learned from his late father, an Army veteran, and the work of all Chattanoogans, even factory workers, in past war efforts.
He then saluted the veterans, saying, “I just want to say thank you. Your sense of service and duty honors us.”
Congressman Green – a Republican who represents the 7th District in Middle Tennessee formerly held by current U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn – talked of his Army service in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
He said he had to witness difficult scenes – from having to take out shrapnel from a fellow soldier’s face to seeing former NFL star Pat Tillman be loaded on a plane after his death – but he greatly appreciated the courage and toughness of America’s military.
“We need them more today than we have ever needed them,” he said of the American military serviceman.
He cited as evidence the fact that North Korea is sitting on nuclear weapons, Iran is trying to get them, and China has expanded militarily in recent years and now has the largest Navy in the world.
“But our military, they are more than ready, and the leadership is the best it’s been in a decade,” he said.
Congressman Green is also a West Point graduate and a medical doctor and was involved in the interrogation of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during his Iraq tour.
During an earlier media event at the Read House lobby with Congressman Fleischman, during which time they talked of current issues facing Congress, he looked back on that time getting to meet the notorious leader after his capture.
“It was surreal. I was on Cloud 9,” he said. “And he (Hussein) was charming.”
Congressman Green was introduced by retired Army Gen. and friend Bill Raines, who said Mr. Green was the first lead donor of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center that opened by the Tennessee Aquarium in early 2020.
The luncheon also included a booming and heartfelt rendition of the national anthem and the introduction of a handful of World War II and Korean War veterans in attendance, including World War II veteran Ralph Painter.
Mention was also made of the services of recently deceased Medal of Honor recipient Charles Coolidge, who had been a key fixture at past Armed Forces celebration events.