Thousands watch Veterans Day Parade in downtown Tulsa
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
11/13/12 at 7:43 AM
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Vicki Jones was in uniform as she waited for a train on a crowded subway platform when someone kept nudging her.
"I finally look at him, and he says, 'I just want to thank you for your service,' " said Jones, a retired Oklahoma National Guard major, about the first time someone thanked her. "I about bawled. When somebody says that to you, it brings up a lot of emotion."
Monday was particularly emotional for her as thousands of people lined the streets of downtown at the Tulsa Veterans Day Parade to thank her and all veterans for their service and sacrifice.
More than 100 floats, bands and dignitaries took part in the 94th annual parade, one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the country, organizers said.
Generations of families and hundreds of schoolchildren waved flags and held signs to say thank you not only to the veterans in the parade but also to those watching the parade along the route, as well.
"I love to look in their eyes, and I love to see the people waving and saluting," Jones said. "It just brings tears to your eyes."
Jones was one of the parade's honorees, along with Grand Marshal Jim Bridenstine, the congressman-elect for U.S. House District 1 and a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, and World War II veterans James Alspaugh and James Carl.
Tina Johnson said the parade would be a good learning opportunity for her 4-year-old daughter, also named Tina. She said she was off work Monday for the federal holiday, so it was a good opportunity to go with her father - a veteran himself - and her daughter to see the parade.
"I said, 'It's Veterans Day,' and she said: 'What's Veterans Day? What's a veteran?' "
Johnson said she explained to her daughter what a veteran is and what they have done for the country. Little Tina sat on the curb, wrapped in a colorful blanket, and attentively watched the parade, covering her ears when motorcycle riders with the Patriot Guard revved their engines.
The girl's grandfather, William Armstrong, spent 35 total years on active duty and in the Army Reserve before he retired as a command sergeant major, he said.
He said he appreciates the gesture of gratitude shown to him but that he came to the parade for his granddaughter.
What did he want her to learn at the parade?
"Pride in country and respect to military people who have served," Armstrong said.
Jones said she feels that honor and pride as she waves to the crowd.
"I'm honored," she said. "I'm honored and humbled."
Jones signed up for the Guard in 1978 and was one of a handful of women and an even smaller group of American Indians to go to Officer Candidate School.
She said she signed up in order to straighten up, and the military helped her grow. She ended up serving more than 20 years, she said.
When she joined, "I did not intend to be in it as a career," she said.
Being doubly a minority as a woman and American Indian, Jones said, Officer Candidate School and much of her career were uphill battles. She was always working to prove to others and herself that she could do any job just as well as anyone else.
"I can't say it's all been easy. Nothing is always easy," Jones said. "When you give a command, you expect people to obey your order. There were times that was tested."
But she prevailed, she said, and rose through the ranks in the Guard.
"I'm honored to have served my country," Jones said. "I'm honored that I completed my oath that I swore to my country, and I'm honored that I'm a Native American who defended my country."
Original Print Headline: Saluting their sacrifice
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Four-year-old Kailyn Steele is held by her father, Jeff Steele, as they both salute while an ROTC group passes them Monday during the Tulsa Veterans Day Parade. Organizers say Tulsa's parade is one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the country. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Retired Oklahoma National Guard Maj. Vicki Jones waves to the crowd Monday. Jones joined the Guard in 1978 and was one of few women and even fewer American Indians in Officer Candidate School. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Army Pfc. Derek Alexander shakes hands with former Army medic Steve Mock — who served from 1964 to 1966 during the Vietnam War — along the Veterans Day parade route Monday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World