Troops get soldier’s welcome

By Tony Parra

On a muggy and cool Saturday morning, Portales residents lined the sidewalks of Second Street to show their support for past and present members of the United States military.

The “Welcome Home Troops Parade” meant a lot to Staff Sgt. Brett Bedinger of the 126th Military Police, who recently returned from Iraq.

Brett’s wife, Erica, and Nancy Gentry were two of the Portales people involved in putting together the parade.

“Being recognized by the community brings tears to your eyes. It was nice seeing friends of your parents who are now your friends,” Brett Bedinger said.

There were U.S. military veterans in some of the vehicles in the parade and community members enjoyed spending time with family.

“It was a really nice family outing,” said Marea Smith of Portales. Marea’s husband Franklin participated in the parade along with both Portales High School band and choir members. Smith is the PHS choir director. “It was nice to see the soldiers who served our community, she said.

The Smith children were on the sidewalk catching candy.
“I liked seeing the different cars in the parade the most,” the Smiths’ oldest son Bailey Garcia said. Garcia is a Valencia Elementary fourth-grader. “I also liked the candy they threw.”

The members of the 126th Military Police from Portales rode in an old, red fire truck toward the front of the parade. Brett Bedinger, Pfc. Roy Burton and Spc. James Montgomery were some of the 126th Military Police members in the fire truck.

Lt. Darren Hooker’s wife and their children stood on the sidewalk next to the downtown square. The children caught candy while their father rode in the fire truck.

Sarah Nicholes, a Portales High School sophomore and band member, said she would give a Portales soldier a hug if she saw one in appreciation for their military service.

Her sister, Rachel Nicholes, also marched in the parade as a member of the Portales High School band.

“I like the freedoms we get,” Rachel said. “Being able to go to school as a woman and being able to get an education after high school.”

Rachel and Sarah know all about the sacrifices made by those who serve their country in the military. Their father, Robert Nicholes, is a retired veteran.

Sam Rice, a member of the Boy Scouts of Portales Troop 404, is a veteran of parades. Sam said he’s been in parades ever since he joined the Boy Scouts five years ago.
Sam said if he saw one of the Portales soldiers later on Saturday, he would thank him. “They’re really brave for being in Iraq. Maybe someday I should do it.”

More than 20 entries were in the parade.