HARTFORD— — Thousands turned out Sunday to honor veterans during the 13th Connecticut Veterans Parade. There were veterans, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, antique military vehicles, old cars and politicians.
Each time an American flag or a veteran passed, 88-year-old Joe Bidwell stood up from his lawn chair to offer a salute.
"We've been coming every year," said his wife, Helen Bidwell.
Joe Bidwell was a ground crewman assigned to the Army's Fifth Air Force in the southwest Pacific. He worked to keep B-24 Liberator bombers flying as the U.S. advanced toward Japan in World War II.
In addition to the veterans and military units that passed, Bidwell offered a salute to the Salvation Army as it passed. "They were a great help to a lot of us," he said.
Lisa Kauffman of Higganum and Tina Lauzi of East Hampton were at the parade with their families.
Each had a connection to the armed forces and wanted their children to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that veterans make.
"We've been coming for a few years now," Lauzi said. "My husband and I are both retired military." She served in the Navy and her husband the Air Force.
Kauffman's husband works for the Connecticut Military Department.
"They know our veterans have fought in wars and we come here to honor that," Kauffman said of her children. "We try to explain to them what they've done for our country."
Lauzi said her children have grown up with the military and "it's very important to them."
A cannon shot, fired in Bushnell Park at 12:30 p.m., marked the start of the parade. After the parade paused at 1:30 p.m. for a moment of silence, another cannon shot got it going again.
The parade featured high school marching bands, fife and drum corps and veterans organizations. Among them were the Italian-American veterans, the Ukrainian-American veterans, Jewish war veterans and Laotians who fought alongside U.S. special forces and CIA officers during the Vietnam War. There was also a contingent of Connecticut Army National Guard soldiers, along with the governor's foot and horse guards.
There were all kind of vehicles, including old firetrucks and antique military vehicles, including Jeeps, deuce and half trucks, a World War II halftrack and a Vietnam War gun truck.
The New England Air Museum trucked a Bell 47 helicopter along the parade route. The helicopter was outfitted for troop evacuation. Museum volunteers marched ahead of the helicopter in medical garb and military uniforms.
Several companies, including United Technologies, Aetna and ESPN, had employees who are veterans march in the parade. Behind the United Technologies employees a truck towed a trailer carrying two Pratt & Whitney engines, the R-1340 Wasp and the R-1830 Twin Wasp.
The Twin Wasp powered several aircraft that helped win World War II, including the B-24 Liberator bomber, the Grumman Wildcat fighter, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport and the Douglas Dauntless dive bomber.
Several mental health and social service organizations that assist veterans also marched to build awareness of the services they offer.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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