The community said 'thank you' as the military showcased its people and equipment during the annual Lawton-Fort Sill Armed Forces Day parade Saturday in downtown Lawton. More than 100 Fort Sill military and support organizations, and civilian agencies from throughout Southwest Oklahoma participated in the tribute to the U.S. military, while thousands of people viewed the procession.

"I thought it was awesome," said visitor Amanda Sharp of Dallas. "I love seeing the military and honoring them." Sharp was one of the many viewers, who lined 11th Street and C Avenue to watch the parade.

Parade participants ranged from the 77th U.S. Army Band to field artillery and air defense artillery units to community agencies and local clubs. Parade-goers were treated not only to high-tech military hardware, like the Paladin, a self-propelled howitzer, but also to old tractors from the Poor Boy Antique Tractor Club as well as to numerous horseback riders from local clubs.

Parade marshal Maj. Gen. David Halverson, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, said Armed Forces Day had communities across America supporting their military.

"It's very important to see the groundswell of Americans, who still supports us and our cause," Halverson said.

He also acknowledged the local support provided to Fort Sill.

"The support that we have from our coop partners, our sponsorship and the community makes it so much easier because 80 percent of our folks live in the community," he said. So they have that wealth of friendship it just means so much to us to know that we have a support group."
Betty Pratt, 82, of Lawton, said she attended the parade to honor the military.

I loved it," said Pratt, referring to the parade. "I love to see all the big machinery that they (military) use."

Pratt, whose late husband, William, was a Navy veteran and whose only grandson, Matt Pratt, is an Army captain, said she also attended the Lawton-Fort Sill Armed Forces Day luncheon Friday here.

Hundreds of children attended the parade and ran to get candy, necklaces, T-shirts, flying discs and other giveaways thrown from the floats or handed out by walkers.

Stephanie Johnson, Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce military and government affairs director, said the parade was a way to give back to Fort Sill.

"We want to show our troops how much we appreciate them," she said. She added that she believed the parade went well.

"The weather cooperated and everybody seemed to have a good time," Johnson said.

After the parade, static displays of about a dozen military vehicles and gear and the Gen. Tommy Franks Museum Roadshow were on exhibit at the Central Mall parking lot.

Combat medic Sgt. Jennifer Weber, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, manned an M996 field ambulance, which was generating a lot of interest.

"They want to know how many people we can hold and what kind of things we can do back here," she said sitting in the back of the medical configuration of a humvee. "They're curious to see what the military does with an ambulance."

Marine Sergeants Mark McKinney and Shawn Dudley, Fort Sill U.S. Marine Corps Artillery Detachment instructors, were on hand to tell visitors about the M777A2 155mm howitzer.

Dudley said he already spoke to more than 30 people early in the event.

"The common questions are, how much the weapons systems weighs, how much are the projectiles that we fire," he said.

"The children don't ask many questions, they're more hands-on," he said. "They want to move the weapon left and right and up and down, which we're allowing them to do."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16