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Military-Themed Parade Draws Cheering Throng

Times Staff Writer

Flanked by thousands of cheering paradegoers on the sidewalk, Lyle Moulton enjoyed a brief respite from the constant worry he has endured since his son left for Iraq in March.

Wearing a T-shirt printed with a picture of Garret, a 23-year-old Marine, Moulton cheered when a pair of F-14 fighter jets boomed overhead, setting off dozens of car alarms.

“Now that my son is over there, this parade is very personal,” he said.

Torrance’s Armed Forces Day Parade has weathered myriad political climates in its 45 years, from the gloom of the Vietnam War era to the more popular Gulf War in 1991.

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But the outpouring of appreciation for the military each year has always helped comfort families with loved ones overseas. That’s more so now as the conflict in Iraq continues, said Moulton, whose home faces the parade route on Torrance Boulevard. A banner above his garage door read: “LCpl Garret Moulton/2nd Battalion/1st Marines/Support Our Troops.”

“This is one of my favorite days,” he said.

Before the marching bands, tanks and dignitaries moved down the two-mile route, the crowd -- which police estimated at 60,000 -- paused for a moment of silence for Sgt. Brian Wood, a Torrance native who was killed in Tikrit last month.

“It rips your heart out,” said Garret’s mother, Mary, of Wood’s death. Moments later, she began to tear up when her husband reminded her of their son’s favorite Toby Keith songs, which the family has agreed to avoid until Garret returns home.

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The Moultons received a letter last week from Garret that was dated April 21. He rarely gets to call, because the wait for the satellite phone usually takes two hours, they said.

In the letter, the Marine wrote that he was in a foxhole in Fallouja, had not taken a shower in more than a month, and greatly appreciated the baby wipes his parents had sent him in a care package.

“He should be here at the parade,” said Garret’s brother, Ryan. “I can’t believe we’re not going to see him.”

Hoping to make it to Iraq soon were friends Angela Crawley and Kate Herron. The two 18-year-olds from Manhattan Beach said they had signed up for the Air Force and had to pass a physical examination before being accepted into the service.

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“We are the most patriotic people you will ever meet,” said Herron, carrying one corner of an American flag, her friend holding the other.

They said they were staunch supporters of President Bush and his policies, and were undeterred by the recent Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

“They’re decapitating our prisoners,” Crawley said. "... I can’t wait to go out and fight.”

Just then, a motorcade of World War II veterans drove by and waved to the crowd. Within the group were Dick Corder and Clarence “Smiley” Bonn, both Pearl Harbor survivors, riding in a red 1964 Chevy Impala. The car was customized with a model warship on its hood for the parade.

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The two Torrance residents, dressed in Hawaiian shirts, said they had attended all but a few recent Armed Forces Day parades in town.

“They wanted us to walk,” said Corder, 82. “We’re too old to walk.”

Bonn, 84, said the event had always made him feel good about being a veteran. “If we didn’t have them, it would be like Iraq,” he said.

Corder’s son, Jim, said he had missed the last few parades, but chose to attend this year because he wanted to honor his father and show support for the soldiers in Iraq.

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“This is the most people I have ever seen here,” he said.

Torrance Police Officer David Cresspin said he anticipated a large turnout. Since 9/11, crowd size has increased, he said.

“I would think more people would come this year whether they’re for or against the war,” he said. “It’s a way for the community to demonstrate that they are for the troops. To show respect.”


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