By Karl Terry
Some towns are parade towns, some aren’t. Portales is a pretty good parade town and we proved it Saturday with the “Welcome Home Troops” parade.
Growing up in Portales, the parades are one of the things that really stick out in your mind. Especially the Eastern New Mexico homecoming parade. We were always lucky enough to have lots of bands due to the large number of good music programs in the area’s schools and that makes the difference in a hometown parade.
Portales may not have a wealth of artistic talent, in general, but give us hay bales, colored crepe paper, a few flowers and a bunch of kids and we’ll turn a peanut trailer into almost anything you could want in a float.
Besides the bands, we get good participation from every church and kids’ group, car clubs, riding clubs, law enforcement and fire departments. Even the politicians who aren’t real aggressive when it comes to campaigning turn out in droves for a parade.
I’ve been to parades in other towns where (gasp) they didn’t even have a band, one sign stretched across the side of a pickup passed for a float and people stopped in traffic didn’t realize there was a parade going on in front of them until it was over.
One town where I lived always liked to talk about its St. Patrick’s Day parade. People would ask me if I was going to watch it beforehand and ask me if I had seen it after it was over. I tried, but for about eight years I missed it every year. I had begun to think folks were playing leprechan shennanigins with me and there really wasn’t a parade.
Finally I was filling up at the corner gas station on March 17 one year and the parade came by — approximately nine drunken locals dressed in green on the back of a flatbed pulled through the stoplight and headed, honking and hollering, for the Irish pub in the next block.
Saturday’s parade was good for a couple of reasons. First, if you plan a parade the chances of rain go up exponentially. Sure enough, it was cloudy and drizzly. The second good thing was that no one was complaining about the weather; they were there to say thanks to our troops for their service in Iraq.
You could tell from their faces that the men of the 126th Military Police were thrilled to be home and honored by the parade and the folks who turned out for them despite the drizzle.
I’ve had the chance to hear two of their unit tell about their experiences in Iraq and I know they sacrificed a lot and they did it for honorable reasons. Despite how any of us might feel about the war in Iraq or for that matter about any war, it’s good that our town agrees that we’re glad to have a good number of our hometown heroes home.
There are still others with ties to this community over there or going back.
After I interviewed one of the 126th members, James Montgomery, last fall, his mother came out as I was leaving with one of those magnetic signs that says “We Support Our Troops.” She stuck it on the tailgate of my pickup. It’s still there, and it will be, until they all get home.
Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4483, ext. 33 or by e-mail: