FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Close to 1,000 Northeast Indiana residents flooded Parnell Ave. Saturday for the annual Veteran’s Day Parade.
Among those participating in today’s parade was the Forty and Eight, a group of honorably discharged service members who arrived to the parade in “Blackjack II.” Blackjack II is mock steam engine converted from an old Coca-Cola delivery truck. It is named for General John “Blackjack” Pershing who was the only person to achieve the highest rank ever held in the United States Army, General of the Armies, while still alive.
Mitch Newell drives Blackjack II. He says she symbolizes the time during World War I when servicemen were transported by box car.
"She symbolizes the box cars back in World War I with France. This one was built back in 1989 to pull box cars to transport troops across the lines."
Newell says Blackjack II creates a sense of nostalgia for older veterans. He says it is also catches the eyes of kids who see it at Veteran's Day parades.
"It's a lot of fun, especially with the kids along the parade route, making the noises like we do, sirens on board and that and just people up there saluting you, waiving."
One of the kids along today’s parade route was Stuart Barnhill. Stuart, along with his mother and sister, came to support his other sister Crystal. She is in active duty. He says he always supports her.
“Like 100 percent.”
That support was also shown today from the Wray family who have a number of family members who have served or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. Karen Wray says United States servicemen and women are invaluable.
“Without our troops we would be nowhere. They give everything, and we’ve seen that especially in our family.”
Wray says their hard work makes life easier for everyone else.
"They're everyday people who give it all and we should all support them because we all benefit from it."
Newell agrees. He says veterans need to be recognized for their service on more than just Veteran’s Day weekend.
"It’s important to get the younger generation to know what we as veterans have went through and some of the sacrifices we've made."
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