ALBANY, Ore. (KMTR) – Hundreds of people were marching and thousands more cheering from the sidelines for military members in Albany as the city says 'welcome home' and 'thank you' to veterans in one of the largest parades on the west coast.
30,000 to 40,000 people packed downtown Albany Saturday, November 10 for the city’s 61st Annual Veterans Day parade. Many refer to the parade as the largest west of the Mississippi River.
Visually, it appears that the numbers back that. More than 250 floats took part about 5,000 people marched in Saturday’s parade.
While Albany hosts the parade, organizers manage to pull in military members and other community members from all over Linn County and Benton County and even the Salem area.
No one is quite sure how the parade got to be so big, but no matter - the crowds and marchers keep the tradition going to a lot of fanfare.
One of the biggest draws is the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon National Guard. Brigadier General Steven Gregg was one of the dignitaries to take part today. He’s the commander of the Oregon Air National Guard.
"Well, it's awesome, it's outstanding support just to see all the citizens out here and all the work they put in to the parade today. It just makes us feel good about our country and Albany,” says Brigadier General Steven Gregg. “I want to thank them for their support and supporting all their soldiers.”
"I just like seeing the people, all the people that turn out . . . [Albany is a] great place, great place,” says Ralph Mesick, a Navy, Air Force and Army Veteran.
Lots of veterans watched Saturday’s spectacle too, including John Emma of Sweet Home. Emma served in the Navy Submarine Service. He says the parade and supporting crowd is heart-warming, so he does what he can to show support.
"I hate to say join up because they might get hurt, but we've got to protect our country. You know, it's the way it is. Someone is going to get hurt and we've got to be out there and our young guys, especially if they don't have anything going for themselves, they ought to join up and get the education they can through the service,” says Emma, a Navy Submarine Service Veteran.
The theme of this year’s parade was 'Veterans – Always Serving, Always Ready'.
One of the most popular floats this year was from the Linn-Benton Young Marines who re-enacted the World War II flag raising at Iwo Jima.
The Albany Veterans Day Parade’s organizing committee is also a non-profit. All of the money for the parade goes back into recognition ceremonies including a memorial service and a Veteran of the Year banquet.