As crowds gathered in downtown Roanoke for Virginia’s Veterans Parade on Saturday, some cadets from Virginia Tech got a special history lesson by hearing the stories of veterans.
For some in the crowd, it was their first time attending the annual parade.
“When someone gets out of the service – you know all about them when they’re in it – but when they’re out and they get older, their stories go untold,” said Jessie Acfalle, a Virginia Tech cadet who plans to enter the Air Force.
At this parade, Acfalle attended not only to see the flags and floats, but also to meet and learn from those who have served.
“Air Force intelligence – they had just opened that field to women when I went in,” said Suzie Glass, a veteran.
Glass said she served in the Air Force at a time when there were not many women in the military.
“I want [Jessie] to know that I didn’t have a bad experience, and not every woman does,” Glass said. “It’s cool to watch the young ones come up after all this time.”
“It really made me sit down, think about it, ’cause she really emphasized the difference in gender roles, and I guess I really didn’t think about that from when she was in the Air Force and when I’m going to go in the Air Force,” Acfalle said.
According to officials, about 300 Virginia Tech cadets march in the parade. Organizers of the meet-and-greet with veterans said they believe it is important for the cadets to connect with veterans of other generations.
“That’s a very big part of our program in terms of our core values and our integrity and our service in honoring those who gave back to our country,” said Lt. Col. Don Russell, deputy commandant of cadets at Virginia Tech.
“Being able to speak to the veterans that have served and fought for us brings together what the Corps of Cadets is all about – tradition, honor, commitment,” said Christian Frank, a cadet.
“Definitely the big takeaway is just get to know your veterans,” Acfalle said. “Even if you’re not going into the service, get to know what they did.”
According to event organizers, 80 groups and roughly 2,000 people marched in the parade this year.