Tacoma and Lakewood are laying plans to embrace troops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with separate military parades in August and September.
Both cities want to promote their ties with local military as a long period of war draws to an end.
Tacoma’s event, set for the evening of Aug. 24, is still taking shape with an as-yet-undefined route, time or roster of participants. It’s intended to recognize active-duty service members, veterans and new recruits.
It came about after talks between Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and the organizers of the annual Daffodil Festival. Tacoma will provide public safety manpower, and the Daffodil Festival will do the rest of the work, raising money and recruiting participants.
“Tacoma should have an annual celebration to honor our active duty and retired military personnel and their families,” Strickland said in a city news releasing announcing the parade.
Lakewood’s event on Sept. 15 is tied to a Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade currently serving in Afghanistan. Lakewood has a relationship with the unit, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and wants to recognize the troops when they come home from war this summer.
The city is billing the parade as a welcome-home celebration, Lakewood Parks and Recreation Director Mary Dodsworth said at a City Council meeting Monday.
The brigade left with about 3,000 of its soldiers in October and November. About 1,000 are already home because of the quickening pace of the war’s drawdown.
The event will begin with a parade starting at 9 a.m. that will include thousands of soldiers and about a dozen military vehicles. The parade will begin near the Lakewood police headquarters and end at City Hall. A community festival will follow, starting at noon at Fort Steilacoom Park.
The Lakewood subchapter of the Association of the United States Army is leading the fundraising and has already pulled together half the estimated budget of $50,000.
For its parade, Tacoma is inviting Army, Air Force and Navy units from all over the Puget Sound area, said Daffodil Festival executive director Steve James. He’s aiming to involve more than 70 active-duty, Reserve, veteran and ROTC organizations. Daffodil princesses will work on the parade. Eight floats are expected to feature veterans.
Auburn hosts the region’s largest military parade on Veterans Day. James said he wanted to create something similar for Pierce County.
“We don’t need a holiday to celebrate” the military, he said.
Lewis-McChord spokesman Joe Kubistek said the base has been contacted about the Tacoma parade and is looking for units to participate.
Emerald Queen Casino, Puget Sound Energy and the Washington State Fair are sponsoring the Tacoma event.
James faces a tight deadline to bring together representatives from the different Armed Forces. He’s confident it will come together and lay the groundwork for what he hopes is an annual tradition.
“We’re the crazy ones who do four parades in one day,” he said of the Daffodil organization, “so this isn’t that difficult for us.”