Hundreds of large and small hands waved miniature American flags at the Oceanfront as the Tidewater Veterans Day Parade made its way down 19th Street Friday morning.
Classic cars carried soldiers, while trucks pulled paper-mache war machines and colorful banners in celebration of America’s veterans. Many organizations marched in the parade, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion to the NAS Oceana Commissary and the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a day to give myself a pat on the back, and to give everyone else I see who is a veteran that same pat on the back for serving,” said 20-year-Navy veteran Liz Dessi.
This year, the parade’s Grand Marshal was U.S. Marines Corps veteran Corporal Johnny Johnson.
Johnson’s Marine unit spearheaded the Tet Counteroffensive in May 1968, during which he suffered career ending injuries. Johnson was the lone survivor of his platoon, according to Captain Michael T. Maliniak who introduced him at a ceremony following the parade.
“Everyone who has put on a uniform knows they are going to take any assignment given,” Johnson said at the ceremony. “There could be hazards with it, maybe not, but everyone is willing to do whatever it takes.”
With schools in Virginia Beach and Norfolk closed, children also paid their respects to veterans at the event. Navy veteran Deborah Cole, who served on USS Yellowstone, said it was great to see cub scouts and girl scouts at the parade.
“They’re the future,” Cole said. “That’s a start for military for them if you really think about it.”