VIRGINIA CITY - Saturday's sky was gray and the Fall wind felt like January, but the brisk breeze waved hundreds of flags as this Comstock community commemorated Veterans Day with its annual parade.
A pair of F-18 Hornet jets flew twice over the small mining town, then the
carillon at St. Mary's in the Mountains Catholic Church began to play patriotic songs.
At the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the parade in honor of what was originally known as Armistice Day began with a wail from the sirens of patrol cars and military jeeps.
Parade Grand Marshal Cmdr. Sinclair Harris, skipper of USS Comstock based in San Diego, rode behind the brace of Nevada Highway Patrol escorts in a jeep mounted with a recoiless rifle and pulling a cargo trailer.
The parade began from the south end of C Street, where structures are sparse and low and the bite of the wi
nd attracted few spectators.
But the two-story false fronts and covered wooden sidewalks of downtown Virginia City provided more shelter and hundreds of watchers did assemble there for the parade.
Many of those who placed their hands or hats over their hearts when the colors first came past kept them there throughout the parade as dozens of flags were carried by.
When the lead sirens reached downtown, pooches Bob and Dylan were on the sidelines, as they are at many Comstock celebrations. Dylan, a 12-year-old black labrador owned by Steve Hilliard, began howling in tune with the sirens. Bob, an 8-year-old English pointer, maintained a respectful silence, because he only sings along with train whistles, owner Meleva Hill said.
The parading groups were varied - 16 camoflage-clad paratroopers, including a woman pushing a baby carriage, from the CalNeva division of the Airborne Division Association; Veterans of Foreign Wars posts from Dayton, Fort Churchill, Stagecoach and elsewhere; a lone woman dressed in black and carrying a red rose of remembrance; more than two dozen Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from Carson High School; the Medicine Heart drummers from Fallon, including veterans from the Paiute and Blackfoot nations; the Incline Highlander Top Guns ROTC rifle drill team and flag corps, including a dozen cadets who stretched a street-wide Stars and Stripes between them as they marched; a single white-bearded sailor still trim in World War II-era uniform bell bottoms; Army National Guardsman from Carson City driving an armored personnel carrier, a massive mobile maintenance vehicle equipped with a crane and a desert tan Humvee; a parader clad in a frayed green fatigue coat with spurs jangling on his cowboy boots; vans donated by the Disabled American Veterans to taken vets to Veterans Hospital appointments.
The Nevada Civil War Volunteers, representing the 3 Company of sharpshooters from South Carolina, marched to remind everyone that the country's veterans were dying for freedom long before any of the marchers were born.
The Cannoneers of Carson City fired their truck-mounted deck gun several times throughout the parade in a salute, to remind the spectators that servicemen's deaths have not all faded from memory.
On the truck with the Cannoneers was Esther Thompson of Carson City, who was commemorating the memory of her brother, Manuel Levi Dick of Coleville, Calif., a Spec. 4 in Company C of the 46th Infantry, who died Aug. 5, 1970, while on a search and clear mission near Phon Ba, South Viet Nam.
The heavy snows of Thursday and Friday nights forced cancellation of the planned dedication of the veterans' memorial garden at Dayton before the parade.
But the civil war volunteers followed the parade with a trip to the Silver City Cemetery, where they filed a memorial volley over the grave of Asa Phelps, who died in the Pyramid Lake War in 1960.