ROANOKE, Va. – On Saturday, the 10th annual Virginia's Veterans Parade will fill take over the streets of downtown Roanoke as a tribute to all the men and women in uniform who served the country.
One local veteran, Todd Dodson, helped organize the parade.
Twenty-five years in the U.S. Army took Dodson all over the world.
"Singapore and Malaysia and Hong Kong and Europe and just about every country in the Middle East," Dodson said.
He served in Iraq and lost fellow soldiers.
"There's guys that I went over to Iraq with that never came home," Dodson said. "I'm one of the lucky ones."
Now that he's retired, his latest mission is honoring other veterans at the parade. It's one of the biggest in Virginia.
"To help say, 'Thank you' to the thousands and millions of veterans we've got, you know, across the country and the Roanoke Valley is just something I want to do," Dodson said.
10 News is a proud partner of the parade and will be broadcasting Saturday's events live on the air. There are nearly 80 participants, including Virginia Military Institute cadets, bands, Boy Scouts, veterans organizations and more. Plus, there will be thousands of people watching and waving.
"It's just a great feeling to see the people come out and line the streets and cheer when people come by," Dodson said.
For the first year ever, F-22 fighter jets will fly over Campbell Avenue to kick off the parade at 11 a.m.
"Low speed for them is about 365 miles an hour. It's kind of like having an air show in your own backyard," said Bob Schmucker, the parade committee's director of logistics.
Schmucker is a U.S. Air Force veteran and said he always looks forward to talking with veterans at the meet-and-greet that starts around 9:30 a.m. in the Historic City Market building.
"To be able to walk, walk in the same room, breathe the same air and shake their hands," Schmucker said. "It's humbling."
Dodson said there is one simple thing anyone can do to show appreciation for our nation's veterans.
"Just say, 'Thank you.' Just say, 'Thank you for serving.' That's all veterans want to hear," Dodson said.