Yesterday's Desert Storm victory parade at Fort Meade was traditional in just about every respect: There were clowns throwing candy to children, fire trucks sounding their sirens and high school bands playing military victory songs.
But accompanying the soldiers and missiles that slowly made their way down Llewellyn Avenue were garbage trucks and lawn mowers with crews who looked as if they had slipped into the parade route to get out of working in the sweltering heat.
Not so. They were getting an afternoon off for a reason. It was Fort Meade's way of recognizing the community and the civilian workers who, along with the soldiers, had each had some small role in the defeat of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
They were people like Joe Chaudoin, who spent the gulf war months building prefabricated outhouses, making storage boxes and shipping supplies to the Middle East. While his job may have seemed unglamorous, it was a vital part in keeping the soldiers in the gulf well-supplied and happy.
"As a general rule of thumb, for every one combat troop there's . . . 10 support troops -- which includes civilians," said Mr. Chaudoin, who oversees 200 maintenance and repair workers at the Fort Meade.
"It's great," he said of the parade. "The people have worked hard -- worked a lot of overtime. It's good that they kind of take an afternoon off and relax. Our people know they were appreciated."
Hundreds of families lined Llewellyn Avenue, many vying for coveted spots in the shade, to watch members of the military services march past. It was so hot that officials had to cancel a rally that was to take place after the parade, but few were complaining.
"Let us also recognize the many others who were directly or indirectly involved in preparing soldiers and processing equipment or supplies," said Col. Thomas Raleigh Mann, garrison commander of Fort Meade. "The victory was a result of teamwork on both ends. And everyone fought long and hard."
The parade was small by big-city standards, lasting about 45 minutes. Most of the onlookers had relatives serving at Fort Meade, many of whom were deployed to the gulf.
Contingents from all four military branches marched in the parade, but the two permanently stationed battalions at Fort Meade -- the 519th Military Police and the 85th Medical Battalion -- received the most applause.
For some of those soldiers, it was a time to catch up and swap war stories. "It was nice to see everybody and talk about Saudi Arabia," said Sgt. Mark Slota, a member of the 85th Medical Battalion.
But the parade was less for shoptalk and more for people like Christopher Zeh, a 9-year-old from Severn who had come with his mother, Barbara.
"My son was very upset when all the troops left, and I thought he deserved a celebration," said Mrs. Zeh, a civilian with Army relief services, a support group at Fort Meade. Though she and Christopher do not know anyone who went overseas, they came to show their support.
"The parade was good, and I'm glad the troops came home," Christopher said. "It's dangerous out there."