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Thousands gather in Pittsburgh for Veterans Day Parade

Wes Venteicher
| Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, 3:06 p.m.
Michael Doerfler, 11, a sixth-grader at West View Elementary, stands with classmates during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Michael Doerfler, 11, a sixth-grader at West View Elementary, stands with classmates during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Paula Mullen, an Army veteran and commander of the Allegheny County American Legion, marches during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Paula Mullen, an Army veteran and commander of the Allegheny County American Legion, marches during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Al Kose of Schuylkill Haven peers out of a hatch on a World War II Stuart Tank during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Al Kose of Schuylkill Haven peers out of a hatch on a World War II Stuart Tank during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Warrant Officer Candidate Chris Mondi stands in formation with the Army Reserve 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Coraopolis during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Warrant Officer Candidate Chris Mondi stands in formation with the Army Reserve 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Coraopolis during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Jack Stevenson, 7, of Baldwin watches the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Jack Stevenson, 7, of Baldwin watches the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
A World War II Stuart Tank makes its way down Liberty Avenue during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
A World War II Stuart Tank makes its way down Liberty Avenue during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Jack Skalos, 90, of West View, a veteran of the Navy who served during WWII rides in a vehicle during the Veteran's Day Parade, Downtown on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Jack Skalos, 90, of West View, a veteran of the Navy who served during WWII rides in a vehicle during the Veteran's Day Parade, Downtown on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit of Pittsburgh's CDR Leon McClain Jr. salutes as taps is played during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit of Pittsburgh's CDR Leon McClain Jr. salutes as taps is played during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
An American flag reflects in the windshield of a vehicle driven by Bill Mankey of the West View VFW Post 2754 during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
An American flag reflects in the windshield of a vehicle driven by Bill Mankey of the West View VFW Post 2754 during the Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.

Several generations of soldiers and 19 marching bands followed a new route straight down Liberty Avenue for this year's Pittsburgh Veterans Day Parade.

About 3,500 people participated in the 96th annual parade, which for the second year was held on the Saturday before the holiday honoring living troops. Hundreds of observers cheered the participants, and some trickled into Point State Park for the second annual Steel City Salutes the Troops celebration.

“It's important because you've got to honor veterans, but you can't honor them every day,” said Anthony Filardi, the parade's organizer. “We can at least honor them one day.”

There were about 75 official entries. World War II veterans rode in vehicles while many who served in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan marched. Clusters of soldiers wearing fatigues watched from sidewalks.

Jennifer Pawlik, 42, of Penn Hills said the parade is especially important to active military members.

“It's a morale builder for those still serving to know that when they go back home, they're appreciated,” said Pawlik, who said she served in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm.

Vietnam War veterans echoed that sentiment, recalling the protests and insults that greeted many on their return to the United States.

“This is a hell of a comeback for soldiers of America,” said Bill Smith, 63, of Oakland. Smith said he served in the Army from 1973 to 1976.

Pawlik, whose 19-year-old daughter recently enlisted in the Navy, said the experience of having served in the military provides a greater sense of kinship with American citizens.

“It's incredible to see how much it still runs through your veins,” she said. “Once you leave, you're still there. You keep that with you.”

Filardi had no official attendance count, but said turnout was similar to last year, when organizers moved the event to the weekend and drew a bigger crowd.

Last year, the parade turned northwest onto Fifth Avenue and then onto Stanwix Street.

Organizers picked this year's Liberty route — from 10th Street to Stanwix Street — because Liberty has more businesses than Fifth, Filardi said. He expects to keep the route next year.

Wes Venteicher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or wventeicher@tribweb.com.

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