Story by Pvt. Nyatan Bol
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Seattle - The Seattle Seafair Torchlight Parade festivities kicked off well before marchers took their first steps down the nearly two-mile parade route. Soldiers, pirates, dancers and pageant queens were among the nearly 100 participants in the annual event held July 28th, in downtown Seattle. The parade featured organizations from the Seattle metro-area that contribute to the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Washington's largest city.
This year's parade was particularly special for Soldiers from across America's First Corps as they Celebrated 100 Years of Courage. 56 Soldiers from I Corps carried flags from America's states and territories - emblematic of the very spirit of the parade and the city hosting it.
The Soldiers' presence at the parade served to highlight the importance of maintaining relationships with surrounding communities through these events.
Spc. Ivan Castaneda of the 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment talked about his experience interacting with the local community at the parade.
"The locals were very much wanting to see what we do and how our vehicles operate," he said. "I've been to Seattle and it's definitely different being here in uniform and representing the United States Army and I Corps."
As the Soldiers passed, they were greeted by parade-watchers who thanked them for their service. Children cheered, gave high fives and a few even ran up to personally thank Soldiers as they marched along the parade route.
Soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade fielded many questions throughout the day from curious parade-goers about their vehicles and their day-to-day lives as Soldiers.
Spc. Erica Roberts, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment answered questions from many parade-goers including a man who served in the Israeli Air Force for six-years, a former sailor, and several curious children and families eager to take photos with her and her colleagues.
Roberts says she enjoys her job as a Multiple Launch Rocket System Crew member and says she loves being stationed at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord. She volunteered to be a participant at the Torchlight Parade with her unit, and said she was glad she did. She loved interacting with the public adding that it was a unique opportunity to see the "diversity the city has to offer."
In addition to First Corps Soldiers, the Honor Guard, and representatives from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the parade also featured several military VIP's who rode in convertibles through the parade.
One in particular was Spc. Calvin R. Miller of the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company. Miller is the First Corps Soldier of the Year and took a minute to talk about the honor noting that the feeling of winning Soldier of the Year was "surreal."
"It's a very tough feeling to explain, it's very surreal when it first happened, I almost couldn't believe it. It's a lot of weight, it's a lot of expectation," Miller said.
Several other Soldiers echoed Miller's sentiment that it was an honor to be at the parade and that interacting with the public means that they serve as ambassadors not only for their units, but for the Army as a whole.
It was a long day for many of the participants, but as the Soldiers piled into the buses at the end of the two-mile route to make their way back to base, they did so with their heads held high and with smiles on their faces.