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A summer tribute to service members

Northwest Guardian

Published: 12:00AM August 14th, 2014

Celebrating Military Service Parade


Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.


Parade moves north from S. 17th St. and Pacific Ave. by Tollefson Plaza.

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With colorful flags flying above their heads, a large group of uniformed service members marches down Pacific Avenue as crowds of onlookers watch them past. A long line of Humvees and Stryker vehicles, with large “oversize” signs pasted to the front, roll down, the music of a band echoing down the street. For the second year, military personnel have their day of celebration through Tacoma.

Floats, vehicles, people on foot, motorcycles, cars and horses will make their way down Pacific Avenue on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. in celebration of service members.

Steve James, coordinator for the Daffodil Festival, has also taken on this event.

“Service members are used to being the token part of the parade, the Color Guard or the people riding around in a Stryker, but this parade is all about appreciating what they do,” he said. “And it’s great doing this for a group that appreciate it. It’s rare that we get long thank-you letters from participants!”

All of those marching along in the parade, with entries ranging from Navy boats to National Guard historical equipment, are service members. The queen’s float, which is usually only used during the Daffodil parade, is being converted into a red,white and blue float for members of the Warrior Transition Battalion.

The Grand Marshall of this year’s parade is Oscar Hillman, retired brigadier general and U.S. Army Commander at Camp Anaconda with 35 years of service experience. Hillman is a resident of Tacoma and seemed to be the perfect fit once his name came up to coordinators.

The Seahawks Blue Thunder drum line are making an appearance and include several service members in their ranks. The parade will once again have PA systems set up and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will be an announcer.

Last year’s successes lead to new partnerships. Many businesses were trying to find a way to show most support. The parade’s north-facing route takes participants into a street party between 7th and 9th avenues on Pacific, with music and events until 9 p.m.

“The parade line will still be there, but the streets are closed down. Families can come down and get close to the Strykers and meet the Soldiers,” he said. “It should be a great way to connect with the public about what our armed forces are about.”

There are other kid-friendly activities happening earlier on parade day. Visit the Washington State History Museum to see a collection of World War I posters, go through a gallery tour, and watch a color guard presentation of the flag as well as World War I re-enactments to make history come alive. Starting at 1.m. at Point Ruston, visit the Northwest Military in the Outdoors Expo, to check out opportunities for current Soldiers and veterans to work and play in the outdoors. The Children’s Museum of Tacoma is open past 5 p.m. to accommodate visitors who wish to meet the Daffodil Princesses.

“They aren’t part of this parade but wanted to give a day to show their support,” he said.

With new partnerships, participants and support, James hopes to see this parade continue getting bigger every year.

“This event has a lot of meaning and I think we say we appreciate our service members often but don’t really show it,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to really show how much you do.”