JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - After a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic the historic Battle of Flowers parade returned with a throng of excitement as part of the Fiesta San Antonio 2022 events. Representing the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence in the parade were Col. David Zinnante, MEDCoE chief of staff, and Sergeant Maj. James Musnicki, sergeant major of Academic Affairs, Office of the Commandant.
As they traveled the parade route in a Humvee decorated in a Fiesta theme, the packed crowds erupted in cheers upon seeing the Soldiers. Walking in front of them carrying a colorful MEDCoE Viva Fiesta banner, Drill Sgt. Shane Beasley-Hall, 188th Medical Battalion, Staff Sgt. Ryan Figueroa, Medical Non-commissioned Medical Academy, and Staff Sgt. Tara Laramee, U.S. Army Medical Test and Evaluation Activity waved to the audience along the two-and-half-mile route. Driving the military vehicle were Sergeant Stephen Fatheree and Spc. Ruth Marcum, both assigned to the 188th Medical Battalion.
Echoing the excitement of the parade’s return, Zinnante described the feeling of representing both the command and the U.S. Army.
“In six years off and on being stationed at Fort Sam Houston, this is the first Fiesta event I’ve had the opportunity to participate in,” said Zinnante. “It’s a true honor to be here on behalf of the entire MEDCoE.”
Zinnante’s feeling of being honored to represent his command were shared by Musnicki. Back in 2000, Musnicki participated in the Battle of the Flowers parade as a Drill Sergeant, and felt honored to return once again representing the Army.
“We’re part of the community,” said Musnicki. “This is our opportunity to get out of our military base. I know in the last two years we’ve been hold up during COVID, and the community sort of shut down. This is our chance to go back out and intermingle.”
The support for the Army and all the military members at the parade was evident. Bernice Brown was among the audience and took a moment to express her thanks.
“I love the Army,” said Brown. “I’m retired Air Force and love the military.”
Her friend Casandra Colon, a retired Army Soldier, said she has family currently serving in the Army and had came out to show her support.
The pandemic had left many time honored San Antonio traditions on hold, and with the return of Fiesta San Antonio the people gathered to watch the parade visibly showed their enthusiasm as the many colorful floats, marching bands, and other participants waved and shouted “Viva Fiesta”.
Because of ongoing road construction this year the parade route was changed from Broadway Avenue to Main Street, but still completed the last portion by passing in front of the Alamo and ending downtown.
While the route was new and presented new logistical challenges, the return of the parade overshadowed any small issues that arrived with the two-year pause and changes.
The Battle of Flowers Association, a civic non-profit organization, plans and organizes the annual parade, which is one of the highlights of Fiesta San Antonio. Ms. Torrey Stanley-Carlton, the parade Military Chair, said what so many others felt about the return of the parade.
“We wouldn’t have the parade without the military,” said Stanley-Carlton. “They are the essential keystone. Having the military here with us and being back in is wonderful.”
Stanley-Carlton has served with the Battle of Flowers Association for 26 years, with 10 of those years as the Military Chair. The city of San Antonio owes its annual Fiesta to a small group of passionate, dedicated women who started it all with the first Battle of Flowers Parade in 1891.
Once the parade was complete and the Soldiers returned the vehicle to Fort Sam Houston, Spc. Marcum reflected on the day, “We made a lot of people happy today; it was fun”.
This is what the return of the Battle of Flowers means to the San Antonio community. A return to normalcy, a return of traditions, and a chance to have fun again.