In mid October the city of Dallas announced that it had been almost fifty years since it honored its area veterans with a parade and that was about to change. With that announcement the 11th ACVVC got ready to notify by mail all the area members and non-members alike that the Cav would be a participant. After receiving their letters several troopers called in to say they were coming and wanting to know what to wear. Unfortunately we got about twenty return to sender letters because some had moved and did not notify us of their new address. Once we got our current mailing list together and the schedule from the city we actually had less than two weeks to prepare. The city got a little rusty over the last 50 years and was ill prepared to coordinate such a large event. Schedule changes took place right up till the last minute. To make matters worse the night before, the media was reporting the parade would end at the actual starting point. Much confusion.
On the day of the parade Ollie Pickral and I followed the directions of the morning news programs and reported to the wrong place. I thought the media was always right! However, they did exaggerate some reporting in Vietnam on occasions. Another quarter mile and we arrived at the assembly area where we were met by a Blackhorse trooper that followed the instructions in my letter. We had also arrived early enough to place our Blackhorse wreath in front of the reviewing stands with the attached Internet address. The parade was to be televised locally and to all VA Hospitals and military installations across the country. This would help give any Blackhorse vet we have been unable to find a way to contact us.
We were able to divert our colors which were being shipped from New Orleans to the next reunion site to Dallas so we could carry them in the parade. The parade stepped off and we were just behind a group of multi-unit Vietnam vets, which were the 36th group of eighty-five entrants. All the groups ahead of us were from prior wars. We were carrying the 11th US Cavalry flag, two 11ACVVC red and white guidons, the POW/MIA flag and our new Blackhorse flag. Walking point was our 11ACVVC banner with Together Then Together Again. I dont know if we were all in step but we were looking good and proud to be representing the Blackhorse. We even had one motorized wheel chair. Mechanized!
The news reports guessed the crowd
to be about 75,000. Buses and buses of school kids were there to learn
what patriotism was really about and to shake the hands of heroes. As we
rounded the corner to the reviewing stands the announcer introduced the
local Great Southwest Vietnam Veterans and the crowd was cheering and applauding.
Our banner holders had created a distance from that group so we would become
a more defined unit. As the commentator announced the 11th Armored
Cavalrys Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia they crowd seemed to get even
louder. I was really moved and almost teared-up. This was the
first time I have really felt welcomed home to my home. We were looking
to the crowd for our families and couldnt find them in the mass of people
pressing in. One lady with tears in her eyes came up and grabbed
and hugged Ollie Pickral as he passed by. I guess he had that teddy bear
look. Afterwards our wives asked why we didnt wave to them or look their
way. As they may have been screaming our names, the crowd was drowning
them out. The crowd lining the street seemed to go on forever and
I wondered where the end would be. Remembering why I enlisted for
armor because the Cav rode instead of walking.
During the parade we spotted several troopers wearing hats and shirts with the Blackhorse patch and urged them to join in. We made contact with half a dozen former Blackhorse troopers that did not know of the 11ACVVC. The big surprise came when one trooper, Richard Kozoilin, HHT 2/11, 67-68 who was in the crowd found us after the parade and handed us the card announcing BLACKHORSE BEER. Richard had been watching the parade, wearing his Blackhorse tee-shirt when he was tapped on the shoulder by Jeff Weis. Jeff had never seen another former trooper since leaving Vietnam. He was there as the last of the regiment left and basically turned out the light and was transferred to another unit. Jeff had cards announcing the tapping of Blackhorse Porter Beer at the Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant in North Dallas. (See photos) This was a tribute to the Blackhorse on Veterans Day.
Well, not wanting to miss a special occasion we all agreed to go there that evening and meet Jeff and do some damage to the vat. I arrived at the very large restaurant to find a large Banner with the Blackhorse and a dress green army coat with Blackhorse patch on the right shoulder hanging in the entrance.
We met Jeff who was really impressed that more Blackhorse troopers than he ever knew existed were in his presence on this occasion. We just happened to have a newsletter and membership application, which Jeff couldnt wait to fill out. At 7:00 PM on the 11th of November the entire restaurant was silent as the official tapping of Blackhorse Beer and toast was made by Jeff Weis.
Prior to the parade, the mayor of Dallas proclaimed that fifty years since the last Veterans parade was far too long and that the parade will continue each year in the future.
PS: Dont contact anyone here in Dallas to send you a Blackhorse beer. Its only on tap. The brew master was so impressed with our turnout that he is considering a repeat next year. See you next year.
For parade photos take a look
HERE and HERE