Constructed on the back of a long-haul flatbed, the metal structure jostled towards the parade route, leaving deep mud tracks in the ground. About 20 LBCC students leaned over the edge of the float, talking, laughing and waiting to greet their fellow civilians and veterans, in a celebratory honoring of their service.
On Nov. 11, students from LBCC’s welding program and Veterans’ Club came together to join on Albany’s 65th annual Veterans Day Parade.
“We all had a part in putting it all together,” said Jessie Martinez, second-year welding student.
The float took about six hours to assemble, and everything metal on the float was crafted by the welding students, except for the Knife River truck hauling the float. The students added their own touches to the float from the previous year, making it into a continuing project.
“It’s kind of a collage of the industrial side of the school,” said Martinez.
Many veterans attend LBCC, several of whom are in the welding program. The veterans in the welding program are in the midst of a fresh start, transitioning from the service to their new life.
“We have a lot of vets in the program, so that’s a big part of why we do this,” said Martinez. “It’s a good way to show support, thank yous, and gratitude towards them.”
A collaboration between the welding students and Veterans’ Club began for the 2015 parade. The club provided the colorful array of flags adorning the back of the float.
“We want to support other veterans and close the gap between age groups,” said Samantha Fergus, vice president of the Veterans’ Club.
Fergus is majoring in business administration and psychology, and is still in the Navy Reserves. By participating in the parade, she hopes to increase LBCC’s Veterans’ Club public presence, ultimately alerting the veterans of the community about the resources available to them. Fergus wants to make sure they know there’s a community of friends with similar experiences waiting for them.
“The welding students invited us to participate in this. It means a lot,” said Steven Olson, president of the club.
Participants were not limited to veterans; several non-veteran students rode with the float to show their support, including students from LBCC’s Chess Club.
“We collaborate with the school to bring all kinds of different vets and students to be on the float,” said Olson.
Currently, the Veterans’ Club is in the process of establishing “Purple Heart” spaces, and are currently developing their project plan.
“We are always trying to work on something to appreciate veterans and bridge the gap between Americans and American veterans,” said Olson.
While sitting near the rear of the float, smiling at the crowd, veteran participant Mattie Guilliams displayed a rainbow flag with the words “I served too.”
“I’m here to show that the rainbow nation is part of the service. We support veterans too,” said student Mattie Guilliams, who spent six years in the Air Force.
Guilliam’s flag was unique to the rest of the parade, as was LBCC’s entire float ensemble. Welders wore their helmets and joked with each other, while others made funny faces and waved at the crowd.
LBCC participants gathered together for one purpose: to welcome and encourage the support of our nation’s veterans.
“I’m here to show that civilians support veterans,” said student Lena DeMorais. “We recognize how much of a sacrifice they’ve made, and we are there to extend a hand.”