Marching side-by-side with veterans
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Cheryl Leone, West Penn Township, drives an ATV proudly during the parade with her daughter SPC Theresa Gustafson and son-in-law SPC Chad Gustafson, both of the Army's Third Infantry Division. They also rode in honor of loved one SPC Christina J. Leone, 21, who died July 11 in a motor vehicle accident while driving home from Fort Stewart, Virginia.
"Truly one of the largest Veteran's parades Tamaqua has seen in many years," said veteran Ed Smith, who served as Master of Ceremonies during the Tamaqua American Legion's Veterans Day service, held immediately following the Tamaqua Veterans Day Parade on Saturday.
This year's parade drew a larger crowd than most residents could recall as individuals, businesses, organizations, emergency services, church groups, youth groups and school organizations took part in the parade by walking, marching or driving side-by-side with area veterans.
"In addition to our fellow American veterans, we must honor all their families. Not just with blue and white gold star banners, but with compassionate hearts. PTSD, traumatic brain injury and life-altering war wounds not only affect the veteran, but can also take an enormous toll on the family as well," said Smith, who also serves as deputy commander, 13th District, Pennsylvania American Legion.
Smith's parents, Daniel, an Army veteran, and Margaret Smith, both stressed how proud they were seeing all the veterans and community members pass during the parade.
"Even though it wasn't as large as Tamaqua's Halloween parade, it was without a doubt the largest Tamaqua Veterans Day parade I've seen," said Andrew Leibenguth, parade coordinator. "Next year's will be even larger!"
In addition to all the veterans and parade spectators, the Tamaqua American Legion expressed its appreciation to their Legion Auxiliary, Tamaqua Raider Band, Panther Valley JROTC, Tamaqua Scouts, area fire departments and paramedics and many others who participated in the parade.
"Let us stand back and marvel at the love of country that was displayed by all of us who served," said Doug Betz on the Tamaqua Veteran's Parade Facebook page.
"Let us stand back and marvel at the brotherly love that was displayed by those who laid down their lives so that the United States of America can become, and continue to be, the greatest country on God's green Earth. God bless all the veterans, living and dead, and God bless the United States of America."