LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Thousands lined the streets of Downtown Las Vegas to attend what organizers bill as the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi River.
“I was most proud that he served. He worked on airplanes,” Marsha McCallum said of her father.
McCallum was in attendance on Saturday with her family, waiving the American flag to the floats and marchers passing by.
“He’s kind of disabled now, he’s not like he used to be when I was younger,” McCallum said getting emotional. “So, I kind of missed the way he used to be.”
Her father spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. Although he would’ve loved to be at the parade, McCallum said she came in his place to honor veterans.
“They sacrificed for us, so we have the freedom we have today to vote and go to church,” she said.
Fredrick James Smith was also at the parade. Originally from Brooklyn, he’s proud of his time in the U.S. Navy and taking part in Desert Storm. He has his battle tours stitched into his jacket.
“Once you sign up and you take that oath of enlistment for your country, all fears go away,” Smith said.
This was the Downtown parade’s 29th year, it was canceled in 2020 during the pandemic.
Edward Weaver of VFW Post 983 was handing out poppy flowers to the crowd.
“There’s a lot of participation and patriotism here in Las Vegas,” Weaver said.
The poppy is a symbol of what paying the ultimate sacrifice looks like.
“At the end of World War I at Flanders Field because of all the deaths and everything else that was going on at that time, the poppies actually sprang up at Flanders Field,” Weaver said.
What also rose from the ashes was the generation of Americans ready to serve, like 21-year-old Hector Lopez-Martinez, who enlisted two years ago as a Navy reservist.
“I wanted to give back to the country I’m currently living in, even though what I do isn’t much. It’s better than nothing,” Lopez-Martinez said.
Lopez-Martinez is now part of a small club, as it’s estimated only one percent of Americans currently serve.