Thousands Cheer Veterans At Parades In Nevada

Veterans Day
By  | 

Thousands of people lined the main drag through Reno's downtown casino district Tuesday, cheering bands and parade units and shouting "thank you" to a Marine just back from Iraq.

In downtown Las Vegas, thousands of spectators lined Fourth Street as marching bands and veterans groups marched in the annual Veterans Day Parade. Four F-15 fighter jets from Nellis Air Force Base streaked overhead.

Across Nevada, military men and women were honored.

"Operation Iraqi freedom is going well," said Capt. Casey Harsh, who rode through Reno's streets in a red, Corvette convertible with his mother, Councilwoman Toni Harsh.

"We are going to win this war," said Harsh, one of the parade's guests of honor.

Harsh, who was among the first Marines to reach Baghdad and recently returned from Iraq, joined Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and others at a brief ceremony near the end of the parade on the Virginia Street bridge crossing the Truckee River.

Cashell tossed a red-white-and-blue flowered wreath into the water below in memory of the three Nevada soldiers killed in action in Iraq as well as past soldiers who lost their lives at sea.

"We gather to honor all those service people who dedicated so much so we can have the liberty and freedom we have today," said Paul Capron, chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3819.

Two Marines, 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney of Tonopah and Lance Cpl. Donald "John" Cline of Sparks, were killed in action March 23 near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

Army Capt. Josh Byers, 29, who graduated from Reed High School in Sparks, was killed July 23 when his convoy was ambushed near Ramadi.

Harsh crossed into Iraq with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force on March 21 and helped troops liberate Baghdad. He was among those who received the Presidential Unit Citation.

At the parade on a crisp fall day under sunny skies, he wore the same uniform he had worn into Baghdad. He said it was the first time it had been ironed since then.

Harsh said Byers, Cline and Pokorney "served with distinction for a very honorable and worthy cause.

"They made the world a better place in very tumultuous times," he said.

Reno police estimated the crowd at more than 2,000 along an eight-block stretch of Virginia Street past casinos where only a handful of patrons kept plugging slot machines as the parade passed.

Elderly residents in VFW caps mixed with strollers, dogs and flag-waving children. More than 50 parade units mixed with hundreds of ROTC cadets, marching bands, veterans, local law enforcement and military vehicles.

The parade began with a C-130 cargo plane from the Nevada Air National Guard making a low pass as the Guard's High Rollers stepped off toward the famous arch that reads, "The Biggest Little City in the World."

"There's usually a pretty good crowd. It's good to see," Capron said.

In Las Vegas, a group of Korean War veterans received special recognition to mark the 50 years since the war ended.

Seven U.S. servicemen killed in a March 2002 battle in Afghanistan were remembered Tuesday during a ceremony in Boulder City.

Hundreds of veterans, locals and family members of the fallen soldiers attended the service, including the mother of slain Boulder City resident Army Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21.

"He was real proud of what he was doing," said Patricia Marek, who now lives in Littleton, Colo. "The wounds are still so fresh."

A veteran of three wars served as the grand marshal at the annual Veterans Day Parade in Virginia City. Robert Russell of Gardnerville was awarded six Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars during his 30 years of service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

In Fernley, veterans celebrated the future as well as the past at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery where a $3.5 million improvement project that began in May is slated for completion by February.

Last week, a wreath was laid at Henderson's Veterans Wall memorial, which bears the names of 1,628 veterans. There were 80 names added to the wall since last Veterans Day, and a bell was rung as each of the names were read aloud.

Nevada has one of the fastest-growing veteran populations in the nation. Census Bureau statistics show veterans account for about 16 percent of the state's population, tying Nevada with three others for second place behind Alaska, which has 17 percent.