The might of the U.S. military saved Jim Bradley when his plane went down behind enemy lines in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
“I had my flight controls shot away by ground fire on a strafing run,” the now 85-year-old pilot recalled. “Lucky shot.”
Viet Cong advanced across a rice paddy at the downed plane, about the length of a football field away from Bradley and his fellow airman. But they were kept at bay by suppressive fire, and a Huey helicopter swooped in to give the men a lift to safety.
“I flew the next day,” Bradley said.
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On Saturday, military might was on display in downtown Tacoma, and it was Bradley calling in the big guns — this time just for show.
He has helped organize the annual Daffodil Festival spring parades since 1983 and Saturday’s second annual Celebrating Military Service Parade.
The city of Tacoma joined with the Daffodil Festival group to put on the display, which made Bradley’s job easier. The spring parades take about four months to organize, he said. “I put this parade together probably in about an hour,” Bradley said.
Armored vehicles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord rolled down Pacific Avenue. A float carried wounded service members. Convertibles carried officers such as Capt. Peter Gilroy of Tacoma.
“It’s kind of an awesome way for the community to come out,” said Gilroy, commander of the Comanche Troop of the U.S. Army’s 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
Organizers would have liked to have seen more of the community out. Police counted about 2,500 to 3,000 people at the heart of the parade route.
“It’s sad to me: We put this on; we promote it as much as we can on a shoestring budget. ... We’d like to be able to see (crowds) four, five deep,” Steve James, executive director of the Daffodil Festival, said.
“If you could get 600,000 people for the Seahawks celebration parade, you should have a good portion of that here,” he added.
And if people needed the incentive, the Seahawks mascot, Blitz, was there too, leading the Blue Thunder drum line down Pacific.
The one thing James didn’t want to do was televise the parade.
“You can’t show your appreciation from your couch,” he said.