WILKES-BARRE — For those who served and those who are serving the sparse crowds lining the Wyoming Valley Veterans Day Parade route warmed their spirits on a cold and windy afternoon Sunday.
The nearly 1,000 participants in the 68th annual parade almost equaled the spectators lining Market Street from Kingston Corners to Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.
Ken Smalls of Pittsburgh stepped from the warmth of his car, where his wife, Lisa Starruick , formerly of Freeland, waited in the passenger seat. The 65-year-old Vietnam veteran in dress uniform with an 101st Airborne patch saluted the men and women from the various branches of the military as they marched toward the reviewing stand on the square.
He appreciated their service and made an effort to show it. The same courtesy was not shown to him upon his return after his service in 1968 and 1969 during the Tet Offensive, he said, adding, “Because nobody respected the Vietnam vets.”
More than 40 years later the sentiment has changed, and patriotism, especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania, was evident from the U. S. flags and applause for the veterans.
“It’s nice to see, ” Small said. “It’s very nice to see.”
Many people on the square clutched the molded, golden plastic poles to which plastic flags were attached. They bore the imprint “Made in U.S.A.” Josh Ferris, 14, of Dallas, ran along the route handing them out. The eighth-grade student said he was a first-place winner in the essay contest held in conjunction with the parade.
On the sidewalk 9-year-old Marissa Felgenhauer of Scranton was dressed in U.S. Army combat fatigues and kept a brisk pace to catch sight of her dad, Bryce, a medic with the 109th Field Artillery as his unit marched by.
Dressed in winter coats, 5-year-old Rorey Purcell and his sister, Conlon, 2, darted to the street from the curb to snatch candy thrown from the cars carrying veterans. They unloaded their goodies in the stroller where their younger sister, Kaylyn, 1, was bundled in a blanket and watched by her dad, Patrick Purcell of Kingston.
They could have been elsewhere, the children’s father said, but his son wanted to be nowhere else. “He was insistent that we’re coming,” Purcell said.
Erika Stets-Papa waited with her 11-month-old daughter, Angelina, for the red convertible Mercury Cyclone muscle car driven by her husband, Anthony, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He was deployed three times,” Stets-Papa said. He’s 100-percent disabled, having been injured when a helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan, she said.
So far Marine Corps Reserve Lance Cpl. Jack Roszel has not been deployed. Roszel, 28, had finished marching with his unit and was holding his 1-year-old daughter, Cora, as he walked from the square with his wife, Kristy.
“I’ve never been part of the parade before,” said Roszel, who’s relocated to Northeastern Pennsylvania from the Washington, D.C., area. “It’s really motivating.”