Conn. Guardsmen represent in the Big Apple

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Chris Johnstone
  • 103rd Airlift Wing
Why I chose to march...My military career began many years ago when I began serving my country as a young private in the U.S. Army. Upon my discharge from the Army, I joined the Connecticut Air National Guard and began my career in the Guard. Over the years, I have marched in numerous parades; the Memorial Day, Veterans Day parades and many change-of-command ceremonies. I have always derived a sense of pride when representing our unit while marching in a parade and have always been honored to show support for our former Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen.

When our vice commander, Col. Miclon, asked if anyone would be interested in marching in the 2010 New York City Veterans Day parade, I jumped at the chance. This was the chance of a lifetime, and what a great way to once again honor all of the veterans who have served before me and to show support for our country and for the 103rd Airlift Wing. I soon discovered that I wasn't alone in my feelings and that approximately 50 other individuals from the wing and 30 folks from the Air Control Squadron felt the same.

As we began to make plans for the parade, it became clear that there were some logistical hurdles that we needed to overcome. As always, the support and "can do" attitude of the 103rd came through once again. The logistics readiness squadron supported our transportation requirements with two buses, family services provided beverages and snacks; but the real support came from all of the volunteers who offered to give up a day off to march in a parade to honor our veterans.

The parade itself was amazing! We formed up in Madison Square Park and fell in behind the active-duty folks from Maguire Air Force Base. The park was jammed with other marching units; Marines, Army, Air Force, ROTC Cadets, Viet Nam Veterans groups and many others. The only way to describe this is organized chaos! According to the press release, there were more than 22,000 participants and I'll bet that there were 6,000 of us jammed into this little park. We marched up 5th avenue under the command of Lt. Col. Bill Neri and Capt. Jesse Hayes, who were our troop commanders. Master Sgt. Eric Rowland and Chief Master Sgt. Eugene Theroux called out the cadence. The avenue was packed and thanks got to many of the 103rd family members who came to watch the parade. We all enjoyed our own very special cheering spectators.

For me, it was a very special event and one that I will never forget. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to represent our unit and to march with my colleagues in the parade. I know that everyone who participated felt the same and we all look forward to marching in the NYC Veterans Day Parade next year.

I'd like to thank a few of the folks who helped make this a memorable event and for all of their support; Col. Miclon, Lt. Col. Neri, Capt. Pagoni, Tech. Sgt. Fanelli, Tech. Sgt. Blanchard and everyone who volunteered to march.