By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellJanuary 15, 2013
PASADENA, Calif. (Jan. 15, 2013) -- The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade kicked off early on New Year's Day morning as thousands of onlookers watched marching bands, colorful parades and Army Reserve Soldiers.
Master Sgt. James Vaughn and Sgt. Clifton Powell, both assigned to the 200th Military Police Command's 11th MP Brigade, had the special mission to transport the Chief of Army Reserve on a Humvee in the parade as part of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods Canines with Courage float.
The Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Soldiers said they took pride knowing they were representing the Army Reserve on a national platform.
Vaughn said it was a once in a life-time event that couldn't be passed up.
"It was great," he said afterwards. "I could not believe how the people were so supportive of the military."
The Soldiers arrived at 4:30 a.m. in the cold weather at the staging area for the hundreds of organizations and floats that would soon been seen by millions, and found people who greeted them with warm hugs. With a nearby propane heater to provide extra warmth, Vaughn and Powell spent several hours shaking hands and talking with parade participants, volunteers and curious spectators.
"I was proud to be an American," Vaughn said about his personal experience. "There are so many positive things people said to me it was unbelievable."
Vaughn said he joined the Army Reserve to serve his country, and his country has given back much more than he ever expected.
"The Army Reserve has been good to me and my family," said the maintenance supervisor. "It has so many things to offer and if I had it to do all over again I would."
Long before televisions were placed in homes and college football became a multi-billion dollar business, the Tournament of Roses Parade was a well-known event, and Powell said it was much bigger than he ever thought. He said he was honored to be a part of American history.
Afterwards, Powell said Army Reserve Soldiers must take an active role in the community and let people know that Army Reserve Soldiers have a role not just in the military, but within their hometowns as well.
"I believe being a part of this parade gave people the opportunity to see military members supporting our community and local events," he said about the importance of community relations. "I hope people realize how important the military is and understand we are here to help preserve our freedom."
As they drove the 200th MPCOM Humvee through the parade route, Powel said he noticed a trend.
"During the whole parade, no matter what street we were on, everyone jumped out their seats and gave us loud cheers, telling us thanks for what we do," he said.
One of the highlights for both Soldiers was the opportunity to take photos along the parade route and behind the scenes.
"People young and old wanted to take a picture with us," he said.
Powell said the biggest joy for him was knowing that he positively impacted the lives of those he came in contact with.
"We are able to educate people on the life of a Soldier, and gave people a better understanding of what we do," he said.
After the football game was over and the Humvee was returned to the motor pool, Vaughn and Powell returned to their lives as warrior citizens. Without glory, fanfare or photographs, each returned to duty as Army Reserve Soldiers of the 200th MPCOM.