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Tour West America Give Veterans a Special Perch for Parade

Red, white and blue balloons lined the ceiling of a Tour West America charter bus as those aboard sat waiting to take part in the annual Veterans Day parade Friday morning in Phoenix.

“The Veterans Day parade, I think, means something to any veteran,” said Terry Sparbel, an Army veteran and current Tour West driver who was behind the wheel. “It brings back a lot of sorrow, a lot of memories that you probably have tried to put out of your head but never go away.

Phoenix Veterans Day Parade honors service members of yesterday and today.

“It brings back relationships, friends and stuff that you had back in the day. It’s a special day,” the Vietnam veteran said.

The respect and camaraderie among the veterans was apparent; they all reflected on those who were lost in service.

A combined effort of Tour West America and the Phoenix VA Medical Center allowed the 10 veterans to have a special perch at the parade. Some of those participating were part of a live-in substance-abuse PTSD program at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

Tour West America employees came up with the idea to decorate one of their buses in honor of Veterans Day because of company employees’ many connections to the military. They shrink-wrapped one of their buses, featuring pictures of several veterans, including now-Sen. John McCain, Pat Tillman, Lori Piestewa and Sparbel himself.

Company owner BJ Brooks then extended an offer to the Phoenix VA Medical Center to have some veterans ride the bus in the parade.

Dawn Lovinggood, who served in the Army for 15 years, was heart-warmed by the big turnout.

“I’m here for my veterans that died. They are soldiers that paid the ultimate price and I think that ultimate price is just too fabulous to waste and we have to remember,” Lovinggood said before the parade began.

Four biplanes flew over Central Avenue to signal the beginning of the parade, and the veterans began to walk along side the bus instead of riding in it, as had been planned.

Those who could walked the entire route, shaking hands, smiling at and thanking the thousands of bystanders honoring them.

Milo Kauffman and his older brother Joseph Kauffman both observed from the bus, rejoicing in the parade-goers’ energy.

“It makes you appreciate that time that you’re away from your home and your family and you don’t know what’s going on,” said Milo Kauffman, a two-year Army veteran and former Tour West driver.

Joseph Kauffman, a four-year Air Force veteran, said he found his uniform jacket specifically for the parade.

“I dug it up and it is the first time I have worn it since being discharged,” he said while looking out over the crowd of parade-goers.

It was mostly smiles and patriotism from the crowd and the veterans, with American flags waving.

The experience was therapeutic for the veterans in the rehab program, recreational therapist Josh Parks said. The parade was a part of their community re-engagement treatment to help them overcome some of the side effects of serving, he said.

Emotions were running high for bystanders and participants as veterans and fallen soldiers were honored.

“One guy started crying when I shook his hand and it took me for a loop. I didn’t know what to do, so I just thanked him,” Lovinggood said.

Read the full story here: The Republic

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