Connie Sykora-Gerlich was there to remember her father.
Standing near the corner of Dallas and Bagby Street, moments before the Veterans Day parade began Sunday afternoon in downtown Houston, she uses the day to honor him and his service as a firefighter in the Army during World War II.
“They served for us,” said Sykora-Gerlich. “They gave for us to be free. It is very important. Each and every one of them have a story behind all of this.”
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Wearing a camouflage jacket and a shirt that read, “My Daddy, My Hero” Sykora-Gerlich was just one of many who gathered downtown to pay homage to veterans.
The parade was part of a Sunday celebration for the more than reportedly 200,000 veterans and their families who live in Houston and for the many others scattered across the country. A hearty crowd of kids and adults was not deterred by the cold and drizzly weather.
Before the parade, the morning kicked off with a health fair across from City Hall, and then a a moment of silence to pay respects to the 100th anniversary of the signing of the World War I armistice, which ended fighting in what was called “the war to end all wars.” The morning ceremony also celebrated the centennial anniversary of women being able to serve in the marines.
As the downtown Houston parade began, trumpets blared while members of Jack Yates High School’s band and dancers sashayed down the street. Their red and gold outfits sparkled against the gray sky.
Raquel Edwards was there to see her own students from The Rhodes School, who were part of another drum line that made its way through downtown streets.
The 29-year-old fourth grade teacher felt it was important to support her students and expose her three-year-old son to the observance.
“A lot of times we teach these things in school but we’re not able to show them how important it is,” said Edwards. “When they see the community and everybody coming together, they can see and realize that this is something that is very important.”
As the parade stretched toward City Hall, U.S. Army trucks drove down Dallas Street. Participants passed out American flags and candy to those gathered on the sidewalks as “Proud to Be An American” blasted.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and Congressman Al Green, who wore a jacket with an American Flag design, waved from their shimmering red, white and blue float.
Golfcrest Elementary students cheered, “Veterans we love you!” as they bounced their pom poms. Others crowded on the sidewalks waved to veterans who were sitting atop a caravan of convertibles.
Sykora-Gerlich, who is in her 60s, said this is an emotional day for her. Her father died when she was 23 and she misses stories about his time in the army. She also came to honor her niece who is currently serving in Afghanistan.
“A lot of them got wounded,” said the Houston woman. “A lot of them don’t get recognized.”
As the parade continued, some drizzle began but much of the crowd stayed. Chants of “USA!” could be heard as the parade wound down in front of City Hall.
“I just thank God for them,” said Edwards. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”