LEXINGTON, Mass. (May 3, 2012) -- Soldiers from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine showed their patriotism and gratitude by marching in Lexington's annual Patriots Day parade on April 16.
On a hot Monday afternoon, USARIEM Soldiers joined the ranks of the Army Reserve 3rd Legal Support Office out of Boston, Mass., and marched through the streets of town and were delighted to see the thousands who not only braved the heat to watch them, but gave these overheated heroes a standing ovation.
Colonel Gaston P. Bathalon, USARIEM commander, was pleased and in awe of the support from the local community.
"It was amazing to see the turnout," Bathalon said. "The response from the crowd was absolutely incredible. The cheering as we walked by was a meaningful way to say thank you. It showed us that what we do really matters in their eyes."
The crowd's support was important, Bathalon said, because many of the Soldiers marching in the parade that day, including him, have served overseas and this was the homecoming that many of them had not received until now.
"The crowd gave us a welcome, supportive feeling," Bathalon said. "For many of us who have deployed, it felt like you had their support. It made us all feel very good about our service to our country."
But that support does not go one way. USARIEM Soldiers marched in the parade to pay their gratitude back to the community.
"My intent and rationale for marching in the Lexington Patriots Day parade was to show that we, American Soldiers, find it important to say thank you to the local community for their unwavering support," Bathalon said. "During the parade I went from side to side shaking many a well wisher, most particularly the strong hands of Veterans adorned in their highly decorated service uniforms. I thanked them. To me this shows the human side of being a Soldier."
Bathalon, who has served in the Army for 30 years, deployed in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He assumed command of USARIEM in 2010.
USARIEM has participated in other local events such as the Battle Road Memorial March that is held annually in October. During this march from Lexington to Concord, Soldiers carry bricks in their rucksacks, one for each Massachusetts resident killed during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Located at Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., USARIEM provides solutions to optimize Warfighter health and performance through medical research. USARIEM is recognized by many DoD organizations as the trusted leader in medical research for warfighter health and performance.