Veterans lined the halls of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Nov. 8, 2019 to watch the first ever Inpatient Veterans Parade. The parade is the result of one VA employee's vision and the patriotic spirit of a community.
The Muskogee High School R.O.T.C. color guard led the way through Primary Care and inpatient wards. The parade also included members of the community and "mini" floats decorated by VA staff.
Honor, the facility dog, acted as grand marshal while parade participants handed out candy, hats and other treats to veterans.
Twenty-five organizations and VA services joined in the event. Muskogee High School provided a marching band, cheerleaders and football players. Korean War veterans, the American Red Cross and over 80 students from the Sadler Arts Academy also participated.
Seeing Color Guard was emotional
Veteran Billy Fuller became emotional when he saw the color guard.
"I really liked the parade," said Fuller. "I was in the Air Force and seeing the colors and hearing the songs just takes me back. Thank you for doing this for us."
VA staff from the Intensive Care Unit were one of 25 hospital services and community organizations that participated in the parade.
Sadler students passed out cards and thanked veterans for their service while the band, cheer squad and football players brought the music and patriotic spirit that echoed throughout the facility.
Air Force veteran Merle Smith and Terry Hood were all smiles as the parade passed through the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.
"I think this is the greatest thing in the world," said Smith. "All these young kids bringing cards and thanking veterans. It was just really something special."
Hood agreed, but added with a big smile, "The candy was my favorite part."
Volunteer specialist had idea for parade
The idea for the parade came about a year ago when inpatients expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend Veterans Day activities. As a result, Voluntary Service specialist Shantel McJunkins thought of how VA could bring the parade to veterans.
"It was important to me that we bring the parade to the VA this year to celebrate and honor our veterans who are not able to attend Veterans Day parades in their community," said McJunkins. "It was such a joy to see their faces light up as the parade went through the hospital."
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.