Lawton-Fort Sill celebrates Armed Forces Day

LAWTON_ Lawton-Ft. Sill kicked off Armed Forces Day with a big parade Saturday morning. Thousands of people came out to line the city streets, as Lawton's fire engines, marching bands, floats, and more rolled by. This year, the parade started on the north side of Central Mall and went all the way to Elmer Thomas Park. The parade has a deep meaning for a lot of local people.

Since 1949, people across the U.S. have been celebrating Armed Forces Day. The single-day celebration unifies the armed forces under one department -- the Department of Defense.

Each year, Lawton-Ft. Sill shows its support by hosting its own Armed Forces parade. This year the parade not only provided entertainment for families, but also served as a reminder of why thousands of many brave men and women are so far away.

"I think right now with everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's important to raise awareness of that," said Amy Thiessen as she watched the parade.

The parade offered something for everyone. Everything from loud police cars and fire engines, to the Budweiser Clydesdales and military tankers.

As thousands of pounds of military steel rolled by, war veterans looked on. They said the parade was important not only to those who had served proudly, but also those serving who may be discouraged.

"The war effort and for the high moral of the military, we need to keep their moral up and let them know they are appreciated," Ernest Grimes, a retired member of the Air Force.

The parade also gave local businesses and organizations a chance to show off their talents and skills. Even with the high cost of gas, people managed to travel from other cities to watch the parade and said support for events like this are important to Lawton.

"To show the community what's in Lawton and what's going on in the community and stuff like that," said Ronnie Pyles as he watched the parade. "Not everybody sees what's in Lawton until they come to these events."

Lawton officials say this year's parade was a little different, not only in its route but also in the amount of its supporters. They say it was the biggest yet and so was the turnout.