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Rain doesn’t dampen spirits [photo gallery]

Crowds turn out to honor heroes at Altamont Memorial Day Parade

A wreath is placed next to the American flag in Orsini Park in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Altamont's Memorial Day Ceremony on Sunday, May 19, following the parade.

A wreath is placed next to the American flag in Orsini Park in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Altamont's Memorial Day Ceremony on Sunday, May 19, following the parade. Photo by John Purcell.

— “She never lets our veterans be forgotten and we didn’t want her to be forgotten for all the wonderful things she has done,” Stanton said.

Donald Mackey, past District 3 Commander and Vietnam veteran, was grand marshal of the parade. Mackey said the event is a celebration of freedom and “all that was done to get here.”

“Those of us who have fought in a war remember,” Mackey said. “It’s impossible to forget. Those days full of fear, full of wanting. We wanted to go home more than we wanted to be there.”

Mackey said there is a “drastic difference” between the stories told about war and the people that experienced war firsthand.

“For several years I felt guilty,” Mackey said. “I felt guilty because I got home, I survived. There is more than one veteran that feels that way and that guilt, I’m not sure it ever goes away. We replay over and over in our minds what happened to us.”

In 1967, one of his friends died in helicopter crash after being shot down, and a year later Mackey returned home without his friend.

“His life was precious and I missed him for a long time,” he said. “I know that if he had to do it over again he probably would, but none of us want that to happen. None of us want war.”

Whenever Mackey hears a helicopter approaching it brings back memories of his lost friend. He said losing his friend and others would be “for nothing” if people forget the past.

“I can almost see him leaning out the door and waving … and as he waves the helicopter drifts into heaven and he’s gone once more,” he said. “For a very brief moment I saw him. Someday, we will meet again. Someday, we will relive those good moments, and we’ll never forget together.”

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