U.S. soldiers and Marines greet spectators during the annual Fourth of July parade in Atlanta, Ga., July 4, 2005. The parade’s theme this year was "Salute to America." U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alex LiceaAtlanta Fourth of July Parade Salutes Troops
Thousands of Georgia natives and tourists gather to pay tribute to the nation and its servicemembers.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Alex Licea, 3rd U.S. Army Public Affairs
ATLANTA, July 5, 2005 — When U.S. Army Spc. Giancarlo Ramos left his home country of Peru in 1998, the then 19-year-old native of Lima had no idea what to expect. He left behind the only life he has ever known to travel to the United States, with the hoping for opportunities and searching for a new path in his life.
Seven years later, the 26-year-old Army infantryman has been all over the globe fighting for freedom in the deserts of the Middle East, and the mountainous terrain of the Korean peninsula. Now this father of one finds himself, along with dozens of his fellow service members, standing on a parade float and smiling back at a crowd of flag waiving Americans who are applauding him for his service to a nation in which he has only lived in for a third of his life.
Thousands of Georgia natives and tourists from across the country paid tribute to America and its servicemembers during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade. The parade began at the corner of Baker and Peachtree Streets in downtown Atlanta and ended at Centennial Olympic Park, July 4.
Ramos was joined by soldiers currently assigned with 3rd U.S. Army in nearby Fort McPherson, members of the Georgia National Guard and members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I’m so honored to be saluted during the parade,” said Ramos. “I joined the Army to serve a nation which took me in and has given my family a chance for a bright future.”
The day began with overcast skies, but as the mile and a half parade got underway, the clouds disappeared. This year’s festivities featured dozens of floats, marching bands from across the state and hundreds of performers celebrating the red, white and blue.
“It a nice day for this parade in honor of our nation’s birthday,” said spectator Mike Alaniz, a resident of Norcross, Ga. “This year’s theme is real special because we are recognizing individuals who serve our nation all over the world.”
Alaniz, who served in the Army for three years, was joined by his wife Grace, who admired her husband’s patriotism during the parade.
“He is just a fanatic about the Army and its members,” she said. “We both came out here to show our gratitude to the military and this great country.”
U.S. Army Spc. Rosalina Taylor, one of the soldiers honored during the Salute to America parade, has deployed to the Middle East three times in her eight years in the military. She said the atmosphere of the event was overwhelming, and she felt great pride representing America’s men and women in uniform.
“The spirit of today’s event is incredible,” said the mother of a four-year-old son. “It is truly a sight to see.”
Army National Guardsmen Spc. Damian Loback’s enthusiasm was visible as the service members were directed toward the “Salute America” float.
“This is so cool,” said the 20-year-old reservist. “The city’s atmosphere is incredible.”
As the parade came to a close, the announcer asked the audience to direct their attention to the middle of the plaza. Soldiers returning to duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, who watched the parade from the bleachers, were honored as they boarded buses for the trip back to the airport. Spectators waved flags, rendered salutes and cheered as the service members entered the buses.
For Valerie Donaldson, the touching tribute hit close to home.
“I appreciate and praise all these soldiers,” said a tearful Donaldson, a mother of two and wife of 1st Lt. Henry Donaldson, who is currently deployed to Iraq with the 48th Brigade Combat Team, Georgia National Guard. “It’s so hard for me sometimes to keep my composure.”
For these soldiers, the opportunity to be the main attraction at this year’s parade was a chance they may never have again.
“I am happy to take part in this event,” said Sgt. Vanessa Doyle, 3rd U.S. Army information specialist. “This is great for all of us because it is something bigger than ourselves. It’s about our country.”
More Pictures at: Atlanta Parade Supports the TroopsWay to go, Atlanta!!!