Legionnaires from around U.S. make patriotic waves on Tryon Street

Hundreds of veterans representing states from across the country paraded down Tryon Street on Sunday, waving little American flags and displaying their red, white and blue outfits.

The American Legion National Convention’s parade down Tryon from Ninth Street to Stonewall Street represented the departments from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. It also featured a few high school marching bands, including Butler High School.

Each state celebrated what it was known for, with Florida’s department handing out Mickey Mouse stickers and South Dakota, “the birthplace of legion baseball,” marching with colorful plastic bats while singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Ned Fox, a member of California’s Sons of the American Legion, said this year’s national convention was of particular importance to him. His father, a World War II veteran, died on Independence Day at 90.

“It’s difficult,” said Fox, tearing up. “I want to support what my father did and what these veterans did for our country so we could be free to complain and do whatever we want.”

Fox said it’s important for Americans to not only understand the sacrifice that veterans have made but also to know how to show patriotism. He said when he was younger, he was taught how to fold and display the flag and also was encouraged to place markers at veterans’ cemeteries.

“Don’t be afraid to show your patriotism to your country,” he said. “Love your country.”

Jordan Mahar, 7, wasn’t afraid to do just that, wearing a legion hat and saluting veterans as they walked by during the parade. Mahar’s grandfather, Robert Gardner, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and marched with the legion’s New York department.

“We believe in honoring our servicemen and women for what they’ve done for us,” said Gardner’s wife, Vivian Gardner, of Whitney Point, N.Y. “They’ve given their time and sometimes their lives to keep us safe.”