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Near and far: Spectators see patriotism in annual parade

They looked a touch proper, standing in smart, stiff uniforms behind a line of parade goers in shorts, tank tops and tennis shoes.

But the visitors said they were having a good time anyway, and they loved our parade.

Sgt. Jeremy Webb is the recruiter for the U.S. Marines' Ashland, Ky., office. Sgt. Scott McIntire is the U.S. Marines' recruiter in the Portsmouth recruiting office. Webb grew up in Gallipolis; McIntire is from farther away: Detroit, Mich.

"It's a good parade," Webb said.

"This is better than the ones we have in Detroit," McIntire said. "I'll be back next year."

Was it the clowns that impressed the two Marines? Or the floats? Or the bands? No, it was the patriotism, they said. It was the way the community embraced its military, and the way soldiers and sailors past and present embraced each other.

"I almost started crying once or twice," McIntire said. "I looked and saw these veterans, these older veterans, and they saw us and saluted us. They're the ones we're here for. … I saw these other vets saluting us and I just got goose bumps."

Webb and McIntire said they had been treated warmly by Tri-State area, not only during this parade but in their work as well.

"I've gotten an awesome reception," McIntire said.

The two men not only watched from the sidelines for a bit, they even got to join the procession when Upper Township Volunteer Fire Department let them hitch a ride on a fire truck.

Be it patriotism, community pride or just a good time, those who came from far and near gave two thumbs up to the 137th annual Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade.

Mike and Glenna Kelley came from Oak Hill to see the parade. They come every year.

"I was born and raised here," Mike Kelley said. "I came when I was a kid."

Like many others, they came early to make sure they got a good view of the procession. They brought their own folding canvas chairs with drink holders, ready for the show.

"It's gotten a lot bigger than when we were kids," Mike Kelley said. "But to me, it's stayed the same in the camaraderie, people just getting together."

Christy Dingus of South Point brought her children, seven-year-old Brady, 10-year-old Jalon and two-year-old Haley to see Dad in the parade.

"He's going to be on a fire truck," she explained.

Laura Serna of Marietta came with husband Eric Richendollar and their three sons, nine-year-old Alex Richendollar, and eight year-old twins, Nick and Chris Richendollar.

"We used to come all the time. We have relatives in town and Eric is from here," Serna said. "Its an event, being the longest running parade. Our parade in Marietta is not this big. This one is a lot of fun, you see so many people, it's a lot of fun."

What does the Serna/Richendollar family like about the parade?

"I like the Shriner hillbilly cars," Serna said.

"I like the marching bands," Eric Richendollar said. "I used to be in the Ironton High School band."

Have things changed from when he was a band member?

"Well," Eric Richendollar said hesitantly and with a smile, "everyone in the parade now looks so… young. But the spirit has stayed the same. It still honors the veterans and I hope we keep doing it for many years to come."