NEW BEDFORD - With the holiday season in consumption of almost everyone's time and energy, it's warming to see those who served our country singled out and honored for their sacrifices on Veterans' Day.

The City of New Bedford saw a great turnout of area residents at its annual Veterans' Day Parade on Saturday, which concluded with a Veterans' Day service outside of the New Bedford Main Library.

The parade invited all area veterans to march, post member or not, and saw a gathering of veterans from World War II all the way up to the War in Iraq.

“Our local veterans' groups welcome all veterans to march with their organizations, and we hope they will be able to join us in the parade rather than as observers,” said City Veteran's Agent and Iraq War veteran Chris Gomes.

Parade organizers and participants gathered at Buttonwood Park at around 10:30 a.m. and started down Union Street towards downtown. After turning left onto County Street and right onto William Street, the parade finished off in front of a viewing stage outside of the New Bedford Main Library.

The day concluded with a Veterans' Day service led by Desert Storm and Bosnia veteran Paul Souza, who served as the Grand Marshall of the 2017 parade.

Souza is enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1983 as a 19 Echo, Armor Crewman and attended basic training at Fort Knox Kentucky. Following training, Souza was deployed to Germany to the 3rd Armored Division and served as a Tank Driver, Tank Loader, and a 19Kilo M1 Abrams Tank Gunner. In 1990 Souza was sent to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Upon his return he would again be reassigned to Germany to become part of the 1st Armored Division where he would become a Tank Commander. Finally, after a brief time as an Army Recruiter in Fullerton California he would return to Fort Riley and would deploy to Bosnia peacekeeping mission. He would remain at Fort Riley as a Platoon sergeant until his retirement in 2003.

Retired U.S. Army Tank Commander Paul Souza speaks at the Veterans' Day service following the parade. Tim Dunn/TSM.
Retired U.S. Army Tank Commander Paul Souza speaks at the Veterans' Day service following the parade. Tim Dunn/TSM.

Currently, Souza is an employee of the Bristol County Sheriff's Office and the Executive Officer for the Abrams Company of the United States Brotherhood of Tankers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of America's armor and cavalry heritage.

Souza also spoke about his time out of the Army and about a group of veterans he met, who eventually went on to form a non-profit group called Operation Backpack, which supplies backpacks filled with food and supplies to homeless veterans.

“We sat down and discussed what our goals were going to be, but we didn't want to be one of those groups that sat in bars and told war stories," Souza said. "We wanted to be part of something that had meaning so we put our heads together and got with other area non-profits and started one of our pet projects called 'operation back pack'.”

Souza went on to explain that after Operation Backpack had kicked off his group realized that they liked restoring tanks, which led to them restoring three of New Bedford's monument tanks. He also acknowledged the amount of veteran service organizations in the Whaling City and throughout the state, and encouraged young veterans to become part of something upon their return to normal life.

The 2017 New Bedford parade was presented by the City of New Bedford Veterans Advisory Board Veterans Day Parade Committee.

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