Reservist Rides in Tournament of Roses Parade
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2004 Dillon's Bar in Loganville, Ga., erupted into cheers and applause when the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve float flashed across the television screen shortly before 10 a.m. during the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1.
Marshall, his wife, Jennie, and employer, Dan Weidmann, won an all-expenses- paid trip to the event after Marshall's mother, Lynn Kaley, wrote an award- winning essay in an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve contest.
Air Force Reserve Maj. Tami Rougeau also won a seat on the float.
Marshall arrived just in time to ride the float along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif. He had left Afghanistan four days earlier, landing in four different countries and getting stranded in Kyrgyzstan awaiting a flight. But Marshall arrived in California Dec. 31, spending New Year's Eve with his wife, who traveled from Georgia to see him.
Weidmann, a partner at Weidmann Remodeling-Renovation and Marshall's employer since 1998, called the opportunity to ride in the Rose Bowl Parade an experience of a lifetime. "It was unbelievable when we turned the corner along the route and saw so many people looking at the 14 of us on the float," he said.
Weidmann said he was moved to see an estimated 1 million people in the stands arise as the float passed them, saluting, waving and giving the "thumbs up."
He acknowledged that having a member of his small business called to active duty for the past year hasn't been easy, but said he's reorganized the company until Marshall's return.
"He knows that his job is here and that we're anxious for him to come back," Weidmann said.
Weidmann called the float "a great starting point for spreading the message" about the importance of the reserve components and the vital role employers play in supporting their Guard and Reserve employees.
Marshall's mother, who also has professional ties to Weidmann Remodeling- Renovation, said she never realized what a stir her essay about her son and his unit would create in the "Heroes Among Us" contest.
Kaley said she wrote of her son's dedication to the Georgia Army National Guard and about how he and soldiers of the 221st Military Intelligence Battalion's A Company had adopted the village of Jarchi in Afghanistan. Twice a month, Marshall and his troops deliver 15 to 30 boxes of food, medicine and clothing to the village.
In her winning essay, she described her son as "full of boundless love, embracing all who are fortunate enough to enter his life."
"I'm so proud of him and his unit, and simply wrote what I felt," Kaley said.
In mid-December, she said she learned her essay had been selected as a winner, and that the military would fly her son home from Afghanistan to ride in the parade. "We were so thrilled," she said. "We jumped around here and hooted and hollered."