By Susan Holmes, AW2 Advocate in Colorado Springs
As an AW2 Advocate, I participated in many memorable events with AW2 Soldiers, Veterans and Families, but Veterans Day 2009, was especially unforgettable.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning, a bit chilly, but the sun was shining up and down South Tejon (the major artery through downtown Colorado Springs). The citizens of Colorado Springs began lining up at 7:00 a.m. to ensure they had a prime spot to view the morning’s parade.
At 9:00 a.m. the 2009 Colorado Springs Veteran’s Day Parade began. There were floats of various sizes, groups marching together, entries from military organizations – both past and present, and every imaginable representation of U.S. Armed Forces. At the end of the parade was a sweetly decorated float to close out the day. The float was decorated with three simple colors: red, white and blue. It was obvious that someone had truly taken a great deal of time to decorate it and make sure it was appropriate for the heroes that it was to carry. The float had two very simple signs that adorned the sides. The signs displayed the AW2 logo and a simple phrase, “Thank You Wounded Warriors.”
On the float practiced a 1940s-like female trio that sang patriotic tunes with a nostalgic flare (Think Andrew Sisters, circa 1940s). Aboard the float were several young Girl Scouts that had decorated the float, and were awaiting the heroes that the float was decorated to honor. The girls were so excited and proud. They had cookies, water, candy, and other goodies waiting. One by one, the heroes began to arrive. The float stood approximately 6′ off the ground, so these amazing men and women had to be carefully lifted or assisted onto the float. The young girls stood in awe before they went to work.
The girls made sure each of these amazing Americans had water, snacks, or whatever they needed to make them comfortable. They gave each of the Soldiers flags to wave proudly. A couple of the girls even gave up their seats to make sure each of the Soldiers had a safe place to sit on the float, which kept some of the girls standing throughout the trek down South Tejon.
After about an hour, the float began to slowly creep forward. As the last float of the parade, the crowd had quieted down a bit and the clapping had become routine. Slowly as the float moved forward down the parade path a hush fell on the crowd. The monotonous clapping became thunderous applause, as the patriotic citizens were reading the AW2 signs on the float. It was immediate; the crowds sprang to their feet and began clapping with a much renewed vigor. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) was on their feet. They were screaming “Thank you!”, “We love you!”, “We are proud of you!” Many in the crowd were in tears others were saluting, but all were grateful. This scene repeated itself as the float progressed down the parade route, lasting about 30-45 minutes.
As an AW2 Advocate that has been working with these heroes for 13 months now, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. That day taught me so many wonderful lessons! As I watched Veterans from wars past salute these young heroes, I realized the bond that exists between Soldiers of all times. I understand that a grateful nation still exists, regardless of economy, politics, or whatever else might be going on. It was evident. Our grateful nation (alive and well in Colorado) lined South Tejon that morning eager to thank and salute our AW2 Soldiers who have paid tremendous prices for our freedom.
There were 10 AW2 Soldiers on the float that morning. AW2 Advocates Eric Mitchell, Marlo Walker, Tony Barnes, Annette Brown, and I were there all there from Fort Carson to work the event behind the scenes. We were all touched, renewed and grateful for the job that we have been blessed to do and the heroes that have allowed us to be a part of their lives.