LATROBE (KDKA) — The Latrobe Fourth of July celebration is a tradition for many across the area, but this year it’s a bittersweet occasion as a special group of veterans ride in their final parade.
The Western Pennsylvania Chapter 14 Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge made their way down a parade route for the final time.
“Happy in one way and sad in another way,” Michael Rudy, a Battle of the Bulge Veteran, said.
Six veterans from the group rode in today’s Fourth of July parade in Latrobe.
They started with about 100 members in 1990 and are now down to around 20. That’s why the group decided last year to dissolve their chapter.
The Battle of the Bulge is remembered as World War II’s largest and bloodiest battle for Americans – something that is recognized by spectators who never fail to give a standing ovation.
“It means a lot,” Joseph Folino said. “The way that people respect us – even if they’re sitting down – they see our banner and they see us coming, they get up, they really respect us.”
The veterans have been participating in the Latrobe Fourth of July parade and the Fort Ligonier Days parade for about 15 years.
Over the years, the group has shared their war stories with many, including a Saint Vincent College professor who re-told them in his book, “They Say It Was a War.”
The veterans are hoping that even though they are retiring from the parade route their message will live on.
“We have the best country in the world and we want to keep it that way,” Folino said.
And while today was the group’s final parade, they won’t be losing touch. Instead of formal reunions, they’ll be getting together as friends with a whole lot of history.