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The annual Veterans Day parade, Satuday.

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
A man marching in the annual Veterans Day Parade on Saturday thanks World War II veteran Walter Werner, 90, for his service.

Veterans, families, supporters share pride during annual parade

– Mike Miles traveled the route of the annual Veterans Day Parade in a one-seater airplane with no wings.

Not that he minded.

Miles, who retired in 2004 after 20 years in the Indiana Air National Guard, built the experimental aircraft himself. And while it may look like a prop, it's a real plane that flies. When the wings are on, at least.

"They didn't think if they put the wings on it would make the turns," Miles said.

He was a jet-engine mechanic and built the plane in his spare time because, well, he liked working on planes.

"I take it to elementary schools and talk about aviation," he said.

Karen Millner helped carry the parade banner for the Blue Star Mothers of Indiana, mothers whose children serve in the armed forces. Millner's sons Justin, 23, and Kyle, 21, are in the Army. Justin is at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Kyle is in Afghanistan.

"He left in July," Millner said. "Hopefully, he's coming home soon."

Millner said you deal with it the best you can because you have no choice.

"With two boys in, there's always one gone," she said. "You just deal with it day by day."

But groups such as the Blue Star Mothers make a huge difference.

"You go and you hear the same stories as you're going through, and you cry because you're going through the same thing," Millner said. "A lot of people don't understand what you're going through."

Walking in Saturday's parade, hearing the people cheer and knowing they're cheering for what your son is doing helps a little, too.

"It makes you proud," Millner said.

John Root found another way to be proud. He was a lance corporal with the 3rd Marines in Vietnam and afterward mostly just wanted to forget about it.

"It's taken me years to really appreciate what I did and what I did it for," Root said.

What made the change? Serving others.

"Listening to vets, working with vets, helping vets. That's what changed everything for me," Root said. "I'm prouder now than I was years ago."

Saturday, he was proud to help out again – pushing a wheelchair occupied by Oliver Fitzwater, who was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam.

As they prepared to step off with their banner for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the cloudless blue sky was ripped by an F-100 Super Sabre doing a flyover of the parade route, drawing cheers and creating a blast heard across the city when it kicked in the afterburner.

"Get on it!" Fitzwater yelled at the plane.

The plane disappeared, the parade began and Root steered Fitzwater onto Parnell Avenue, lined with hundreds of people waving flags and saying, "Thank you."