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Armed Forces Day Parade Rolls Through Downtown Scranton

BY FRANK WILKES LESNEFSKY, STAFF WRITERMay 19, 2019

Proudly wearing his recently issued Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal around his neck, Walter Moyer watched the Armed Forces Day Parade roll through downtown Scranton on Saturday, occasionally giving a thumbs-up to passersby.

“I support them all,” the 88-year-old staff sergeant from Scranton said. “I do the best I can.”

Having served during the Korean War in the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, Moyer had several medals to choose, including a Bronze Star, but he chose to wear his newest.

The gold medal, affixed to a multicolored strap around his neck, shone brightly in the early afternoon sun as Moyer watched marching bands and military equipment rumble down Lackawanna Avenue.

He had two words to describe how he felt watching the parade.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” he said, adding he was “a little choked up.”

About 50 different groups marched in the parade this year, said longtime parade committee member Joe Sylvester. This year, they tried out a new route: beginning at the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center, turning left onto Mulberry Street, right onto North Washington Avenue, right onto Lackawanna Avenue, and concluding on Mifflin Avenue.

The sunny, warm weather was a far cry from last year’s cold rain, Sylvester said.

“I think we had a very good turnout,” he said, noting that turnout has gone up a bit each year. “They’re paying more and more attention to the veterans than they did years ago.”

Sylvester spent 43 years in the Army on active duty and Reserve, holding the ranks of both master sergeant and first sergeant.

Navy veteran Ralph Taylor staked out a shady spot under the bridge at the Marketplace at Steamtown to view the parade. Wearing a Vietnam veteran cap affixed with a Vietnam service pin showing when he served — 1965 — the 72-year-old from Scranton said he served with a nuclear support crew. His work included harbor security at Da Nang and pusher boats on the Chu Lai River, he said.

“I was one of the first Americans in Vietnam,” he said.

Taylor has never missed an Armed Forces Day Parade in the city. As he looked on, he felt “very emotional — especially for our lost brothers and sisters that are still over there.”

“I’d like to see more people, but it does my heart good to know that they’re remembering the veterans and all of the people from foreign wars,” Taylor said, pausing as a parade marcher thanked him for his service.

Clad in a Navy cap and a Navy Seals T-shirt, Bill Shelski, 71, sharply saluted his brothers-in-arms as they passed by him. Having served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, the Navy Seal was a machinist’s mate second class.

He recalled watching his grandfather, Charles Werner, a World War I veteran, march in the parade. The city’s efforts to hold the parade every year since 1999 don’t come as a surprise to Shelski.

“That’s what this city was built by — veterans,” he said. “Just about everybody I knew was a veteran. I grew up in South Side.”

Alexis Kacaba, 11, of Scranton, stood on Lackawanna Avenue waving American flags in each hand as she thanked as many members of the armed forces as she could.

“I tried my best to make sure they heard,” she said.

Having attended the parade for most of her life, Alexis said she feels grateful for veterans keeping people safe.

“If we didn’t have the veterans, we probably wouldn’t be in this country safe and protected,” she said.

Contact the writer:

flesnefsky@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5181;

@flesnefskyTT on Twitter

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