Ten veterans of the 99th Infantry Division gathered in Washington, D.C., to take part in the 2011 National Memorial Day Parade along Constitution Avenue. The 200 units in the parade participated in memory of those who have died in each of our nation’s wars – from the Indian Wars to the Revolution, the war of 1912 and on up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
First, the 99ers met at 11 a.m. in the parish hall of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill for lunch and storytelling. With them were about 35 family members or helpers. Some of the veterans’ stories brought tears; others brought laughter.
The lunch was served by church volunteers at no cost to the vets or their guests.
Around noon, the veterans loaded into jeeps and other vehicles and were transported to the assembly area on the National Mall to wait step-off time.
Guests were transported to the line of march near the National Archives Building so that they could see the 99ers as they passed the reviewing stand.
The colors leading our contingent were carried by Arnold Taylor, our chaplain, and the Checkerboard banner was carried by Dave Perlman. Three jeeps followed, carrying the remainder of our unit.
The temperature stood at around 90 degrees and it was humid, so it was something like training in Texas. However, our unit included a civilian sedan that was air-conditioned, just in case any one of us needed a respite.
That happened when Taylor became woozy about two blocks from the end of the mile walk. He passed the flag off to a young man who was with us and he hopped into the car. Relief!
A band member in front of the 99th passed out on the pavement and a medical doctor who was with us on his bicycle quickly responded and helped the band member to some shade. An EMT man was available, so the horn player was well taken care of.
When we reached the dispersal area, we were transported back to the parish hall for snacks and more stories as we awaited the return of our guests. When they were ready to leave the parade, they called their drivers on cell phones and were returned to the parish hall.
More fellowship took place. Stories were told. And goodbyes were said. All in all, it was a wonderful mini-reunion and a good time was had by all.
Another parade will be held in the same way on May 28, 2012, in Washington, D.C. If any veterans of the 99th would like to participate, contact the Rev. Arnold Taylor at 507 Third Street SE, Washington D.C. 20003, call 202-547-7962, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 99th Infantry Division is the only dogface division in the parade. Airborne veterans are there too, but they all ride. In any case, it is a delight to hear the crowds along Constitution Avenue shout “Thank you!”
All 99ers who are able ought to experience this at least once before it is too late. This is also an opportunity to see the National WWII Monument if you haven’t seen it.