Story and photo by Sgt. April York
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
DENVER — Cries of “thank you” and “welcome home” filled the streets of downtown Denver Saturday as 160 Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, marched and called cadence in the Colorado Yellow Ribbon Parade.
The 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard followed by Fort Carson wounded warriors led the parade.
“The parade was about welcoming home the troops, letting the community know we were there and that we are back, and to say thank you,” said Spc. Ashley Barraza, Forward Support Company G, 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg.
Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, along with veterans and community organizations, marched in the parade in support of the troops.
“This is just awesome,” said Katherine Mullin, a retired special education teacher for Littleton Public Schools. “I think everyone has feelings for our military, but maybe they don’t know how to show it and this is just a great venue for it.”
Soldiers from private to command sergeant major took pride in the event.
“To me, it’s more emotional,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Benito Perez Jr., 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg. “It felt good seeing my Soldiers march in the parade — it means more to me than they may know.”
Perez served with 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg., from 2001 to 2004 as a platoon sergeant for Battery C and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 01 where he lost a Soldier.
Seeing the community get involved to support the Soldiers was uplifting for the participants.
“As military servicemembers sometimes we don’t see the appreciation from the civilians and parades like this really make us realize that they really do appreciate everything we do,” said Sgt. Noe Tapia, Battery B, 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg. “It felt kind of nice to actually have civilians supporting us on coming back home and doing the mission we did in Afghanistan.”
The Soldiers of 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg., recently returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 11-12. Deployments can be long hours and high stress, which makes this welcome home parade all the more meaningful.
“It was great to hear people cheering for our Soldiers before they even announced our name,” Perez said. “It was really touching.”
Community members and veterans waved signs and cheered as the parade participants passed by them.
Evelyn Poulo, a retired database administrator, had a message for the men and women who serve: “We love you for it.”