Words of appreciation, cheers of support and salutes to and from military veterans marked the annual Veterans Day parade through downtown Waco on Friday.

“I definitely appreciate this, because this was not what we got when we came home,” said Bob Rochelle, who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, including two tours in Vietnam. “They spat on us when we came home from Vietnam, but this is really great. You can tell that all of the veterans really appreciate this.”

Rochelle, 79, who served from 1954 to 1975, stood and saluted American flags as they made their way down the parade route. More than 3,000 people participated in the annual homage that included several local schools, clubs and service groups, McLennan County Veterans Association vice president Danny Smith said.

“It is outstanding. Just the seeing all these people out here honoring the veterans is very touching. . . . Everywhere you go out here, people are thanking you for being a veteran,” Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, said. “It really means a lot.”

The two-hour parade made its way down Austin Avenue to the sounds of marching bands, revving motorcycles and clapping hands. The parade, which started in 1921, had more than 130 entries this year and showcased patriotism and left smiles on the faces of participants and spectators.

‘So incredibly thankful’

“I am just so incredibly thankful to all of the men and women who have served and are serving our country,” parade spectator Mindi Selman said. “It’s a thank you to the men and woman for their sacrifice, and not only for the service members, but to the families who stay home and support the service members.”

Selman held a hand-made ‘Thank You’ sign as she stood on the corner of Eighth Street and Austin Avenue with her two daughters, Reagan, 10, and Piper, 3. Her 9-year-old son had a school engagement during the parade, but Selman said it was important for her family to honor veterans, especially since she said she has several family members who have served or are serving in the armed forces. That includes her oldest son, who is enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.

“This is just really important that my kids see this and say thank you,” she said.

Bill Maley, 82, said he was drafted twice, first in 1958, when he served until 1960. Then, he was re-enlisted shortly before the Cuban missile crisis. On Friday, he served as one of five judges who watched parade participants move into downtown Waco.

“It is always nice when someone thinks of you, but when I got called, I went and did what I was supposed to do,” Maley said. “I was just doing my job.”

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