CORVALLIS — Hundreds of smiling faces -- waving hands -- patriotic pigtails.
Memorial Day in the Bitterroot can only be described as one thing.
“This is the biggest little parade in Montana,” said grand marshal Frank Mason.
This year was no different as Main Street exploded with parade-goers, a rowdy affair for sure, but veterans sporting hats with the name of their branch served as a reminder of the real reason for the spectacle.
“I saw lots of young people and children, and they need to understand this history, said United States Air Force veteran Dale Stovall.
A Vietnam veteran, Stovall came to the Corvallis parade in support of an old buddy -- memories of a time long ago came flooding back with every salute and every shout.
“The grand marshal, Frank Mason, he and I flew combat together in Vietnam, and we had a particularly interesting day in North Vietnam...he spent 12 minutes in a hover getting shot at, and he could see them outside his window 50 yards away, they were shooting and the bullets were coming at his Jolly Green helicopter,” recalled Stovall.
A graduate of Corvallis High School, Mason has seen the Corvallis Memorial Day parade for years, but this one proved particularly special as he watched from center stage as the 101st parade’s grand marshal -- an honor he’s grateful to accept.
“It’s pretty humbling,” said Mason.
Both rescue pilots, Stovall and Mason lived to tell the heroic stories of their time in service, lived to put on those uniforms for parades, lived to enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Others will never have the chance to do any of those things -- A reminder that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, and it’s not always easy.
“For me, Memorial Day is for the guys who didn’t come home,” said Mason. “The face and name is Rocky Revito, and we flew together and him and Frank Meador were out flying on a mission, and they never came back. That’s what it’s about.”