Thousands Turn Out for Parade Honoring Veterans in Des Moines

Iowa National Guard soldier Dan Wagner, of Panora, adjusts his 5-year-old son, Gabe's, sleeves as his son Austin, 4, blows bubbles prior to the parade that honors veterans and current members of the armed services on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 100 units, floats and bands as well as 2,000 or more marchers are expected to join the roughly hour-long parade. (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register,David Purdy ) NO SALES

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By Belinda Yeung

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Several thousand people lined the streets of downtown Des Moines on Saturday for a parade honoring veterans and current members of the armed services.

Gov. Terry Branstad's office organized the parade, which began at the state Capitol with a flyover of F-16 fighter jets. Branstad, who served in the Army from 1969 to 1971, also marched in the parade, wearing his old uniform.

Daryl Johnson, of Mason City, carried a POW/MIA flag as part of the parade's color guard, the Des Moines Register reported. The 65-year-old Johnson, who served in the U.S. Army from May 1968 to 1971 and is a Vietnam veteran, said it was an honor to participate.

"It helps us recognize the extra pain and suffering that those individuals and their families go through," Johnson said of the flag honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action.

The parade served another important function, Johnson said.

"As a Vietnam veteran, I certainly want to welcome back veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

Deb Waldon, of Des Moines, sat near the Iowa Capitol to watch her husband, two sons and son-in-law march in the parade. She said her family was proud to participate in the first-time event.

"It's about time our veterans were recognized," Waldon said.

Her stepdaughter, Dawn Dale, said she would like to see the parade held annually.

"It's neat to see the city support the troops and honor them in some way," Dale said.

More than 100 units, floats and bands, as well as about 2,000 marchers, were part of the roughly hour-long parade. An area grocery store also provided 45 volunteers serve breakfast to about 1,000 veterans before the parade.

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