Ninth-grader Martin Schulz clutched an American flag while waiting Sunday for an event he had never seen in his native Stuttgart, Germany – a parade to honor war veterans.
His host mother, Kristin Hoog, said she explained that taking Schulz to the Lexington County Veterans Parade was part of an American experience of acknowledging the sacrifice of the nation’s service members.
“It has more impact when you do it with such a large group of people,” said Hoog, whose family lined Main Street in Lexington like hundreds of others.
Floats with veterans and mothers of deployed service members, sandwiched between high school marching bands, rolled past cheering families and flag-waving children.
Anna Oliver, 11, made signs with her Girl Scout troop, including one that read: “We wear green & we thank you.” Her troop has written letters to a pair of Lexington natives who were going through Army basic training and sent care packages with playing cards, candy and toiletries to overseas service members.
“They help us exercise our rights so that we can vote,” Oliver, a Lexington sixth-grader, said just before a biplane soared overhead to signal the start of the parade. “And they help keep our country free of evil.”
Lt. Col. Drew Brown, who has served in the Army since 1986, said he believes more people have pride in veterans after a decade ofin the Middle East. Brown – who has spent four tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait – removed his cap every time a color guard carrying flags marched past where he stood.
“I think there was some guilt over how Vietnam (War) veterans were treated,” he said.
Leonard Hanham, a Vietnam War-era Air Force veteran, said he thinks that current service members and most recent veterans should get the same appreciation as older generation warriors.
“They’re doing more tours before they get out,” the Gilbert resident said, noting the limits on tours during Vietnam. “And they have more a chance to experience (post-traumatic stress) issues.”
Veterans were invited to a church service after the parade at St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. As much as he appreciated the overall outpouring for veterans, Hanham said he was especially glad to see so many children at the parade.
“They don’t know what we gave up to help the country,” he said. “They’ll learn.”