BRANSON, Mo. – The Ozarks shows its appreciation for the men and women who fought and died to protect our freedom.
Veteran’s Day parades happened across the area Friday, one of which might be the largest in the country.
“I’m active duty and travel all over the world, and I’ve never seen anything this big before,” says Iraq War Veteran, Michael Rivera.
The Branson’s Veterans Day Parade featured more than 88 positions this year, lasting nearly three hours from start to finish.
One of the men helping make the parade possible this year is Bob Sarver with the Vietnam Veterans of America 913.
“It’s just an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for all veterans,” he says, “and just another way that we pay back.”
The showing of support, be it from a fellow veteran who didn’t get it when he came home or from a person too young to understand the meaning, clearly has an impact. The parade draws in thousands each year from across the Midwest.
“I’ve been coming for several years, this is [my son’s] third year,” says Vietnam Veteran, Albert Boucher.
Even among family members who both share a military background, the parade pulls at different heart strings.
“This is overwhelming,” says Albert’s son, Robert. “This is the place for veterans to come… this is just kind of our time to just feel at home.”
“You don’t realize how much we appreciate this,” Albert says, “we didn’t get it coming back from southeast Asia.”
For others, like Vietnam Veteran Richard Dahlgren, the parade is a chance to connect with a total stranger.
“There’s a camaraderie among all veterans,” Dahlgren says. “We all went together and signed on the dotted line that says, ‘up to and including your life,’ and it’s the guys that didn’t come home.”
Depending on who you ask, the meaning behind the parade in Branson, and parades across the Ozarks this weekend, is different.
But the reason for having them can possibly be summed up in one word.
“Freedom,” says Vietnam Veteran, Jim Holtz.