Missouri Military Academy cadets stood ready to march early Saturday morning as the city of St. Louis welcomed Iraq War veterans returning from duty overseas.
Several St. Louis organizations and businesses sponsored the Welcome Home Heroes Parade to recognize the first wave of veterans to return home from Iraq. The parade included the MMA Color Guard and Marching Band, who found out after arriving that they would be placed at the very beginning.
“We weren’t expecting that,” said sophomore cadet Tavian Willits ’14, who marched as part of the Color Guard. “And since we were only one of two bands in the parade, it was definitely a special experience.”
MMA cadets ended up leading more than 80 floats, including the Budweiser Clydesdales, past residents who lined Market Street in downtown St. Louis waving American flags in thanksgiving for the troops’ service in Iraq the last eight years.
MMA Senior Army Instructor SGM Henry Suddarth U.S. Army (ret.) discussed the cadets’ involvement in the event.
“Our cadets represented well,” he said. “They marched with great respect for those who have served.”
St. Louis city officials say they estimated about 100,000 people lined the streets of St. Louis for the parade, which concluded at Union Station. Returning troops spent time at the Veterans Resource Center set up there after the parade, which featured booths and events aimed at helping troops get acclimated to living at home again.
The parade garnered plentiful media coverage, as video of the cadets marching circulated through outlets such as the Associated Press, USA Today, and KSDK, St. Louis’ NBC affiliate.
Click the links below for footage taken from Saturday’s parade:
http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/299901/14/Welcome-Home-Heroes-Parade-makes-history (The cadets can be seen beginning around the 0:35 mark of Part 1)
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-01-28/iraq-war-parade/52843354/1 (USA Today’s coverage of the parade, the video is from the same source – look around 0:35 seconds)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ltlphotography/sets/72157629078775261/with/6780827991/ (LTL Photography’s photos from the parade)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EalfsfVQLY (Associated Press news story)
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