COLUMBIA — Hilda Moore and her family arrived early and found a spot at the corner of Broadway and Tenth Street on Monday to watch the 26th annual Salute to Veterans Parade. It's been a family tradition for years.
Moore, 89, along with her two children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, was among thousands of people who attended the parade to honor family members and other military veterans on Memorial Day.
The parade started with 10 members of the Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team jumping from a plane and landing precisely on several intersections along Broadway at 9:55 a.m. The crowd cheered and applauded every time a paratrooper dragging a yellow-and-black-striped parachute landed on his target.
The parade also featured veterans seated in classic cars labeled with their names and titles waving to paradegoers. High school bands played music and marched in orderly fashion.
“It’s wonderful that they honor all these veterans, and they should be honored, absolutely,” Moore said.
Moore used to attend the annual Salute to Veterans Parade every year with her husband, Virgil Moore, who served in the Army Air Corps as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 during World War II. She continues the tradition even though he died in 2012.
“My husband would be 92 if he were still alive,” she said.
Virgil Moore was shot down during the war and spent 14 months as a prisoner in Germany. When he was released from the prison camp in 1945, he was sent to France for more than a month to be "fattened up," Hilda Moore said. He was so thin that he almost starved to death and was unconscious for 19 days, she said.
Moore said she spent every day with her husband during the five years he was in a VA hospital. He died on June 12, 2012.
The Moores met each other at Hickman High School and had dated all through high school before Virgil Moore went to an engineering school in Kansas City. He was drafted into the Air Corps a year and a half later at the age of 20. He planned to be a B-17 mechanic, but at 5 feet 8 inches tall, he was well suited for the ball turret.
After Virgil Moore left for the war, Hilda Moore didn't see him for more than two years.
“I would run every day hoping to get a letter or card or something when he was in prison,” she said. “You never knew when they might let one come.”
She only got one card saying he was fine. She sent packages every six weeks with underwear and other things she thought he might need, but he never received any of them.
“We were married one week after he got home,” Moore said. “I met the bus when he got home on June 28, 1945, and we were married on July 7.”
Moore said she had a full Memorial Day planned. "After this, we will go home and probably have a barbecue," Moore said. "All the family members will get together."
The Golden Knights were one of the biggest crowd pleasers in the parade.
"Give me five!" one of the paratroopers said to a child after dropping from the sky.
They went among the paradegoers, clapped with them and took pictures with children, yelling and laughing.
Sgt. Martin Trey has been skydiving for about five years, he said, and has jumped about 2,050 times.
Many people in the crowd waved their flags passed out by Boy Scouts wearing emerald green sashes. About 20 boys ages 11 to 14 from Troop 706 participated, organizer Marie Hunter said.
Parker O'Gorman, a 12-year-old Scout who attends Gentry Middle School, was happy to be part of the event.
“To me, it means thanking all the veterans for what they have done for our country, for going out to war, going overseas and leaving their families to protect us,” Parker said.
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