Decorated Korean War veteran Max Bowers, 89, was looking forward to appearing in Stow’s Fourth of July parade.
Bowers, a Munroe Falls resident, was going to ride in uniform with other members of Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 138, near the front of the parade that kicked off about 10 a.m. Thursday on state Route 59. He and his fellow veterans hung together in the parade staging area in the large Stow Community Shopping Center parking lot that holds a Target, Kohl’s, Giant Eagle and other stores.
“I can’t walk anymore,” the former Army infantryman joked. This was at least his 15th Fourth of July parade appearance — he also has marched in other Summit County parades.
Bowers is a Silver Star Medal recipient, the U.S. Armed Forces’ third highest decoration that is awarded to U.S. Armed Forces members for heroism in action against an enemy.
Bowers got a bit emotional while saying he received the Silver Star for rescuing two wounded comrades while under fire, including carrying one of the men all the way to safety.
“You just do what you can do,” he said.
Bowers said it’s his wish that the public recognizes and honors military people.
“Without the military, where would we be?” he said. “All the best to everyone.”
Shortly after, he clambered into the back of the truck carrying his group and they were off.
Parade watchers lined Kent Road/Route 59 starting early in the morning to get prime viewing areas for the marchers, bands, floats, politicians and others in the parade.
A lot of people sought shaded spots as temperatures rose into the 80s as the parade got underway.
Many of the people who stood and sat near the parade’s starting point at the shopping center said they chose their location so they wouldn’t have to be in the muggy heat for a long time. Some of the people on the floats and backs of trucks took pity on the hot onlookers by squirting them with water pistols and other hand-held soakers. Children scrambled to grab candy and other items tossed to them from those marching by.
Angela Oswesti, 34, was among the onlookers who found a shady area. She was with her young daughter while her husband, Troy, marched in the parade.
“We’ve come to the parade now seven years,” Oswesti said. She said she tries to get a shady spot near the start of the parade.
“We see everything right at the beginning before you get tired,” she said. “It’s very nice. A lot of people come out to it. It says a lot about the community.”
Helping keep an eye on the parade participants was Ken Dorsey, a member of the Summit County Amateur Radio Emergency Service. The group provides communication services at parades and other large events.
The ham radio group had six members, each with a portable two-way radio, at various places with checklists to see that parade participants were in the right order or to report any problems. Dorsey said he’s been helping out at the Stow parade for 10 years.
Dorsey said he found three no-show parade participants, adding that is about average each year.
“I’m in direct contact with the review stand,” Dorsey said. “So far we’re in pretty good shape. We’ve had some issues but nothing that can’t be handled.”
Bruce Hoffman says he missed only a handful of Fourth of July parades since moving to Stow in 1977.
“It’s something to do on the Fourth of July,” he said.
Kent resident Clarice Brown, 62, has been coming to the Stow parade for 10 years.
“I just like the togetherness,” she said. “There’s nothing that I don’t like.”
Nicole Murphy guessed she has been attending the Stow parade for 36 of her 37 years.
“I grew up in Stow. I live in Cuyahoga Falls,” she said. Going to the parade is a family event; Murphy brought her 5-year-old daughter, Cayden, to watch.
She said her all-time favorite float is the one that has veterans simulate the iconic World War II photo of six Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima.
Murphy looked around at the people lining both sides of the street.
“This is crazy. It’s like super crowded,” she said. “It just brings the whole community together.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ