The city’s annual Armed Forces parade kicked off the three-day Atlantic City Air Show by recognizing the people for whom this event is all about.
About 130 different groups marched in the parade Monday night along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. The groups represented active and veteran military personnel as well as local organizations and schools. The festivities included floats, bands, vehicles and some aircraft to honor every branch of the U.S. Military.
This is the third year for the parade which is held before the festivities for the annual air show, which will occur Wednesday on the Boardwalk.
Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, said the salute to the armed forces is an appropriate event to hold before the air show.
“A lot of the aircraft in the air show was flown by the people in the parade or they were on the ground for support,” he said. “We’re honored to be able to do that.”
Crowds packed the boardwalk to salute and cheer the many different organizations. Diana Dawson, of Maple Shade, Burlington County, said her husband and uncle served in the U.S. Navy and she attends as many events like this as she can to feel close to them.
“I feel everyone should support our servicemen and women,” she said. “They fight for our country. They should at least be out here to show their support.”
Galloway resident Andrew Ritchie, who served on the USS Shangri-LA as an aviation chief ordnance man during World War II, said he gets a “warm, wonderful” feeling when he sees other veterans and current soldiers be appreciated.
“I thank them for everything they do for vets,” he said. “I appreciate everything that’s being done.”
U.S. Army Major Byron Dobson, a 1989 Atlantic City High School graduate, came from Fort Benning Ga., where he is currently stationed, to march in the parade.
The veteran of two tours in Iraq and two tours in Saudi Arabia said he will be thinking of the three soldiers who died under his command in Iraq – just as he does every day.
He said he also wanted to come and show local youth that someone could obtain the rank of major during his 21 year military career – even if they start out as private.
]”It’s great,” he said. “You don’t see too many towns do something like this – especially for the veterans.”
Longport resident Bill Canaday – who served in the U.S. Air Force as an airman 2nd class from 1962 to 1966 – marched with other members of the Longport American Legion Post 469.
“It’s important to honor the vets and those who gave their lives for their country,” he said. ”Hopefully we serve as an example for young people and they’ll decide to follow in our footsteps and defend our country if necessary.”
For others, the parade was an enthusiastic kickoff for the upcoming air show.
Atlantic City residents Ron Davidson and Gail Allen said they were excited to see some entertainment come back to the resort.
With Hurricane Sandy it has been a long dreary winter and spring and the two said events like this bring a fun atmosphere on the Boardwalk.
“It’s exciting,” Davidson said. “This brings people here and brings it back to life again.”