HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - This year's 2011 St. Patrick's Day parade evolved into a fun-filled bustling celebration as servicemembers from Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield marched through the streets of downtown Savannah, March 17.
"I'm Irish so this was double the excitement for me," said Spc. Charles Bowling, a forward observer in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. "I've never seen or been in this parade before so for me, being Irish and also being in the Army, this makes me feel like I'm showing firsthand how far the Irish have come in this country. It's exciting to be part of this."
The 3rd Infantry Division deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashmen led the way along with the 3rd ID band. As the band played robust songs and occasionally broke out into dance, the crowd of spectators erupted into cheers while women, and sometimes men, took to the streets, attacking the Soldiers with kisses and colorful beads.
"I was toward the front so I could see the crowd cheering as we got closer and the women prepare themselves with what was possibly the brightest lipstick I have ever seen," said Spc. Bowling. "And they didn't care who they kissed - the general, a private, the color guard, the band, men, women, they didn't care. They were happy to see us and they weren't about to be bashful about it."
In addition to the 3rd CAB, members of the 2nd Beach Terminal Operations Company, U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 293rd Military Police Company also participated in the parade. At the end of the parade more than a thousand servicemembers could attest to the community's display of affection as they wiped the residue of red-hot kisses from their faces.
"This was my first time (in the parade), but I had heard that women would run up to Soldiers in the middle of the parade and kiss them," said Pfc. Jason Walsh, a crew chief with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd CAB. "I guess I thought it would just be wives or girlfriends of a few Soldiers that did the kissing. I was wrong. There wasn't a person in the formation that wasn't covered in lipstick at the end of the parade."
According to the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Committee Official Site, the parade began in 1813 and this year Savannah celebrated with the 187th parade.
"The annual St. Patrick's Day parade is an event our Soldiers look forward to each year," said the 3rd CAB Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley. "Those who have done this before, the 'parade veterans,' will put the first timers on the outside of the formation so they can experience in full the kind of affection this city has for its Soldiers. We are blessed to be in a city that supports its servicemembers like Savannah does."