Lakewood’s military parade on Sunday is as much a welcome home for a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker troops just back from Afghanistan as it is a farewell to them.
The city is celebrating the return of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from a nine-month mission in Southern Afghanistan with a parade through town and a festival in Fort Steilacoom Park. About 2,000 soldiers are expected to attend, and they’re bringing some of their Army vehicles with them.
The parade and party also closes a chapter for the city and its relationship with a Stryker brigade that first saw combat in Iraq seven years ago. The city and the brigade are linked through Lewis-McChord’s community connector program, a bond that led to regular interactions between active-duty soldiers and civilians in town.
“We’ve had this incredibly close partnership,” said Larry Saunders, a former Lakewood police chief. “I’m obviously not objective, but it has been a close community and also close personal friendships.”
Since that first deployment, the brigade went to Iraq a second time in 2009-10, and once to Afghanistan last year.
As part of an Armywide force reduction plan, the Army is de-flagging the 4th Brigade and sending its equipment to Fort Carson in Colorado. The Army has not announced when the change will take place, but the news has soldiers and families in the brigade looking to a new assignments at other posts in the service or following through on plans to leave the service.
“How do we celebrate these people and tell these soldiers and their families they are truly appreciated?” Saunders said. “That’s the bittersweet part.”
The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Lakewood’s police headquarters. It ends in front of City Hall. The celebration at Fort Steilacoom follows the parade.