SEATTLE - Men in kilts, marching bands, unicycles, clogs, the Seattle Police Department, fire-breathing dragons, and the U. S. Army Reserve could all be found on the same street May 17 in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day.

Army Reserve soldiers took part in the third-largest 17th of May celebration in the world, also known as "Syttende Mai," the official national day of Norway. The parade celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day, and has been celebrated in Ballard by Seattle's Norwegian community since 1989.

Thousands of people came to celebrate "Syttende Mai," from children in clogs, to a 97-year-old Norwegian-American woman wearing Viking horns. Children marched with Norwegian flags, local marching bands showed their Norwegian pride, and the Army rolled through with its bridging boat to celebrate Ballard's seafaring heritage. A community that grew up around the fishing industry, Ballard is home port for many of the vessels featured in the hit television series, "Deadliest Catch."

Warrant Officer Kevin T. Kelly, Cpl. Scott C. Jakielski and Sgt. Charles J. Morris, III, all members of Detachment 1, 671st Engineer Company in Everett, Wash., as well as Sgt. Eric J. Angle, of the 805th Transportation Detachment, Tacoma, Wash., played key roles in the celebration and showed their pride in the local community by driving military vehicles in the parade.

The soldiers drove an Army-branded Humvee, a Heavy, Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck carrying a combat engineer bridging boat, and a Small Emplacement Excavator, a specially-adapted truck that incorporates a backhoe, bucket loader and other specialized engineer equipment.

"Missions like this are important because they show a different side of the Army to the local community," said Kelly.

Kelly drove the black-and-gold, customized Humvee - complete with flashy mag wheels - along with Jakielski, who stood in the turret and waved at the crowd of thousands of screaming fans, as they drove through the parade representing the Army Reserve.

"Sgt. Angle and Cpl. Jakielski told me they felt like celebrities, and I know what they mean because I did, too," said Kelly. "After the parade, kids were coming up to me for autographs; we all thought it was great.

"We felt like we had the support of the local community; it was awesome," Kelly added. "People were standing and clapping for us, and we're looking forward to doing it next year."

<i>Pvt. Christopher A. Bigelow is a photojournalist assigned to the 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Seattle, Wash.</i>

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