A Clovis parade to welcome back Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and honor Vietnam veterans drew a small but appreciative crowd Saturday morning.
"This is the only way I can thank these people for making sure I wake up in a free country every morning," said spectator Matt West, who was holding a U.S. flag.
Veterans also were grateful for the recognition -- and for the jobs and resources fair at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Building, where the parade stepped off.
"I think it's great," said 1st Sgt. James Jordan, who has served two deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait with the California Army National Guard and is awaiting another deployment early next year.
"It's a piece of the puzzle that we veterans need to integrate us back into society," Jordan said. "It gives us a sense that the community still cares about us."
About 300 veterans took part in the parade, which followed a rectangular route north of the veterans building. The parade was organized by a committee of Fresno and Clovis residents.
Committee member Stephen Doak, 62, a Vietnam and retired Air Force veteran, said he was a little disappointed in the parade turnout but generally was pleased with the day's events.
"I think the veterans really enjoyed it," he said.
Amy Hance of Clovis enjoyed the parade as she sat on a curb cheering the passing veterans.
"It's small town and genuine," she said. "I hope they do it again. I hope it grows."
Vietnam veteran Dale Gillespie, 72, who drove his brown 1931 Ford coupe through the parade, said the jobs and resources fair can give a boost to veterans.
"In this economy, they need to help them as much as they can," he said.
The job fair drew David Stoker, 61, a Vietnam veteran, to the veterans building Saturday morning.
He has been out of steady work since 2008. His mood was upbeat after talking with a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative and leaving his résumé with her.
Stoker knows he still has many good working years ahead of him and a strong work ethic -- he is punctual and has common sense. He admits finding a job as he gets older is tougher, but that doesn't dampen his enthusiasm.
"I'm not a quitter. I never have been and never will be," Stoker said. "There's something out there for me."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386 or firstname.lastname@example.org