Loud cheers and applause greeted veterans participating in the Altoona Veterans Day parade Saturday morning, as hundreds of families, friends and community members lined the streets for the annual event.
Shouts of “Thank you for your service” could be heard as groups of veterans passed through the crowd.
Rachel Schilling of Duncansville took her two children to the parade and said it was easy to convince them to attend. It was her second trip to the parade, while Schilling herself had attended the event three times. She said she felt it was important to attend to show her appreciation for veterans, especially since members of her family served there.
“My dad was in the Army and my brother was in the Air Force,” Schilling said. “I see the importance of coming here and supporting our veterans.”
He said his children love the parades, especially the fire trucks and the free candy.
Others left without children, simply taking the opportunity to go out into the community and express their gratitude and admiration for those who served.
Kay Shade said her father served during World War II and her granddaughter is currently in the Air Force. She has been attending the parade for many years with her husband, Ted. She said over the years they have noticed some changes.
“I think more people have started coming out,” Ted said.
“I really appreciate (everyone coming), but I wish there were more,” Kay said. “There were enough people in the parade to be honored, I just wish more people would come.”
Retired Lt. Col. Nicholas Taylor, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission, was the keynote speaker at the post-parade ceremony and shared the hardships experienced by military families.
“From the moment you step into uniform, the interest of the nation must always come first,” Taylor said. “And those duties are shared by family members who make many sacrifices.”
Taylor shared the story of a National Guard platoon returning home from Iraq. Their arrival was delayed several times and they did not land at their destination until three days after their original estimated time of arrival.
When the unit finally landed at the airport, they were greeted by a group of elderly veterans lining up to shake their hands. They greeted the newly returned men and offered them snacks, drinks and cell phones. Each veteran thanked the men for their service as they went. The men then discovered that the veterans had been waiting at the airport for more than a day for them to land.
“In scenes like this, which have been repeated so many times, we see the best of the character of American veterans,” Taylor said. “There is a unique camaraderie between them, between us, and they never forget the Americans who followed their example and now serve in active duty and in the reserve components.”
Altoona resident August Stickel served in the Navy from 1955 to 1959. He was on active duty during peacetime and praised those who were active during the war. He said the parade is a great symbol of the area’s support for veterans.
“It’s extremely meaningful and I applaud those who participate,” Stickel said.
He and his wife have been attending the parade for about 15 years. He said he feels like he has had fewer people come over the years, but those who come are very intentional. Many veterans of wars like World War II and Vietnam have passed away, so some of those wars are no longer as represented.
“There’s a little less interest, but what we have is genuine,” Stickel said. “It’s a great thing and we should never forget it. … We must never forget.”
Mirror staff writer Nate Powles is calling 814-946-7466.